Yesterday’s Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) hearing on the application by the Horse Racing Industry to use genetically engineered canary pox virus vaccines against equine influenza showed big risks for the agricultural sector here, the organic sector and primary industries that want to market goods as GE Free, according to the Soil & Health Association.
The question raised was if the GE vaccine application were to be approved by ERMA, would its use be mandatory if equine influenza was discovered? A horse racing representative replied that it would be MAF-Biosecurity NZ (MAF-BNZ) that would make those decisions.
“In the event of an equine influenza outbreak, there is the possibility of the mandatory use of live GE Canary pox virus vaccine, even though farmers, life-stylers, horse owners and organic producers may lose markets that demand GE Free products,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.
“ERMA must decline the application if it cannot ensure protection of the livelihoods and sustainable management choices of New Zealand growers. Leaving such decisions to a MAF-BNZ incursion reaction is too risky considering that the cost – benefit analysis could not be done comprehensively at the time. In past cases MAF-BNZ has downplayed the risks of GE contamination.”
“Loss of GE Free status or organic certification and potentially leaving numerous GE contaminated sites throughout New Zealand for a short term benefit for the racing industry is a task of ERMA’s.”
“Just as DDT, which was billed as a “safe” solution to grass grub decades ago, but left long term contamination and loss of land use options, this GE flu vaccine will potentially leave contamination that cannot be cleaned up.”
“In the event of mandatory use of GE canary pox virus vaccine against equine influenza, there must be a cost to the racing industry for the compensation of the thousands of horse and property owners that do not want their GE Free status tampered with.”
“There are non-GE options and the racing industry and MAF-BNZ must ensure that quarantine and incursion event management is maintained at a high standard using the effective non-GE vaccines available already.”
Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 and is opposed to GE in food and environment.