Leakage of GE material from a Plant & Food Research containment facility should come as no surprise, but be a wake up call to Government that a major GE catastrophe is just a matter of time, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.
It was reported on Monday that Plant & Food Research was aware of another possible breach of containment at one of its Lincoln glasshouses, as Arabidopsis plants testing GE positive were found outside the glasshouse.
“GE containment facilities are only as good as human error or the structure allows,” said Steffan Browning spokesperson for Soil & Health.
“Plant & Food have been aware of such leaks for a long time and the Lincoln science community is well aware of previous containment ruptures.”
“With many GE experiments taking place in risky containment throughout New Zealand, also involving the genetic engineering of microbes such as E. coli or salmonella, it is also just a matter of time before new strains of those will escape containment.”
“MAF-Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ), now investigating the latest Lincoln GE breach, played down GE contamination risk at last summer’s Plant & Food GE Brassica flowering event, even though they found that the scientist in charge, Dr Mary Christey, had allowed flowering on more than one occasion.”
“Incredibly MAFBNZ then chose to say that pollen would not have blown more than 2 metres and was unlikely to have been moved by insects due to a lack of flowering plants, when in fact the renown Canterbury nor’ wester had blown over an adjacent tree and the flowering GE Brassica was amongst a sea of flowering plants.”
“Soil & Health wants testing of organic brassica seed saved from the Lincoln area last summer, to be included in independent testing for GE contamination. MAF wouldn’t last summer, so it is good to see some possible change in attitude as they actually get to test the surrounds of the latest GE breach.”
“If contamination exists, there is opportunity to clean up, but MAF keeping its genetically engineered head in the sand, just aggravates the risk to non-GE producers such as high value organics, from loss of markets,” said Mr Browning.
“New Zealand consumers and overseas customers like our clean green 100 % Pure Brand NZ. The risky unwanted GE products that Plant & Food, AgResearch and others keep pushing, fly in the face of clean, safe and desirable organic and sustainable production that the researchers could be putting so much more effort into.”
“GE field trials don’t fit and it is clear that GE containment laboratories don’t either.”
Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 that includes a clean green and 100% Pure GE Free Aotearoa New Zealand.