Organic sector members opposed to AgResearch’s continuing efforts to experiment on genetically engineered (GE) animals have taken a look at the facility that threatens to further tarnish New Zealand’s clean green 100% Pure branding. (1)
With the knowledge that the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) was both consenting non-notified applications for GE cattle and goats within the AgResearch Ruakura containment buildings, and was to consider further outdoor field trials there, attendees at the Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) conference in Hamilton in November took a spontaneous look at the current GE cattle grazing nearby.
The group including OANZ annual award winners James Millton of Millton Vineyard and Colin Ross, Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning, organic farmers, consultants, certification staff, writers and consumers expressed disappointment that inhumane and risky GE science was being government funded, although threatening the advantages of clean and sustainable production such as organic.
“While the GE cattle grazing at Ruakura looked healthy, they were the few GE experimental animals that had survived the less than 5% embryo success, still births, and gross birth deformities that AgResearch don’t want to be open about,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.
Current GE cattle are from previous consented AgResearch GE field trials that ERMA have allowed to remain pending new applications for GE experiments to be processed. The expectation that ERMA would tick the AgResearch application’s through, regardless of public and scientific concern, was not met when an appeal to the High Court by GE Free NZ had the applications declared invalid in June this year. Although AgResearch has in turn appealed the High Court decision, to be heard 25 January, AgResearch and ERMA have continued to try and allow the AgResearch contractual obligations with overseas GE companies to be met, and both non-notified indoor applications and another outdoor GE field trial application including cattle, sheep and goats have been lodged. (2,3)
“While the High Court process is still running, it is a mockery of the judicial system for ERMA to allow further applications for essentially the same purpose, and to have the public excluded from decisions allowing GE experimental animals to the mercy of scientists already proven to fail the animal welfare and ethical standards expected by the community.”
“With no public consultation ERMA has also now allowed indoor GE goats to become bioreactors at Ruakura, although in direct contradiction of the findings of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification (RCGM) that recommended food-animals not be used as ‘bioreactors’. The ethical considerations have also been marginalised.”(4)
Groups such as the Soil & Health Association (5), GE Free NZ, Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility (PSGR), Sustainable Future and many individual’s, including organic farmers, have also submitted to ERMA against AgResearch’s latest notified application for GE animal experiments on cattle, sheep and goats. Submissions closed on Friday 18 December.
“Genetic engineering of plants or animals is one of the biggest threats to our organic producers and New Zealand’s rapidly growing international trade in organic products.” said OANZ Chair Derek Broadmore.
“The growing organic sector presents the best possible image for New Zealand primary production overseas and leads in sustainable practices, yet it has to compete for funding with risky science that promotes products that consumers the world over have firmly rejected.”
“New Zealand and overseas consumers appreciate our clean green 100 % Pure NZ certified organic foods, why would we compromise that by allowing GE plants and animals into the New Zealand environment?”
In his submission opposing AgResearch’s current application, an organic farmer Mr Peter McPartlin said, “We farm, organically, 2000 acres in Marlborough producing prime Angus beef for the Asian markets and prime venison for the restaurant trade in Europe. Our marketing exploits the government funded “New Zealand Pure” brand and we have a heavy reliance on being perceived as clean, green and natural and GE free. None of our consumers in these markets ask for GE products in preference to natural ones – any scientist telling you otherwise is lying!”
“AgResearch GE field trial animals, milk and effluent is disposed of at the Ruakura site, with risk of contamination into surrounding land, stock and waterways,” said Mr Browning.
“Organic standards and production rules such as BioGro, have zero tolerance for GE, and any risk of contamination by GE animals or plants should be eliminated.”
Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 that includes a clean green and 100% Pure GE Free Aotearoa New Zealand.
(1) To see photographs please contact Carol Knutson from Soil and Health Association.
(5) http://www.organicnz.org/ link at; Read the Soil & Health Association submission to ERMA requesting this application be declined !