Plant & Food Research shifted GE soil illegally?

posted in: Food, GE, Media Releases, Organics | 0

Where has Plant & Food Research taken the contaminated soil excavated from its botched genetically engineered brassicas  Lincoln field trial site, and why weren’t stakeholders kept informed of changes to the compliance controls, the Soil & Health Association of NZ is asking.(1,2)

In December 2008 Soil & Health – Organic NZ discovered an illegally flowering  genetically engineered (GE) kale plant (3) and several other flowering brassicas that had set seed pods among weeds at the Lincoln field trial site of Crown Research Institute Plant & Food Research. (4,5,6,7)

The field trial was immediately closed and following an intensive investigation that revealed other GE flowering events, strict controls were imposed for at least 5 years to limit the spread of any GE material from the site.

“Plant & Food have now extended the contamination by removing the heavily herbicided and GE contaminated soil from the trial site late last year in an effort to reduce compliance efforts,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“This soil removal appears to be illegal under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO), although Plant & Food had expressed a commitment to Soil & Health – Organic NZ to meeting whatever new controls were imposed, following my discovery of the flowering GE kale in 2008.”

“Plant & Food needs to make public the details of where the soil is, and what exact GE constructs were used in the original trial so that independent testing of crops in the Lincoln area can occur.”

Brassica species include vegetable plants such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, mustard, radish, turnip, rocket, rape, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, mizuna and several weeds. Brassicas are able to cross easily between species and Plant & Food grew several GE and non GE brassica species at the site where a weed brassica, wild turnip, was also reported.

Although  Plant & Food have removed  contaminated soil to more than 250mm depth, Soil & Health – Organic NZ has recent photographs of a brassica and weed seedlings at the Lincoln GE field trial site, suggesting seed bearing top soil was spilt or the weeds have herbicide resistance.(8,9)

“What GE contaminated soil was spilt during transport from the GE field trial site to its new GE contaminated home?” asked Mr Browning.

“The removed soil is likely to have both seed and soil organisms contaminated by the previous GE program. If the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry – Biosecurity NZ are complicit in the soil removal, then New Zealand’s GE regulatory system has totally broken down as there has been no public notification or application for a new GE site.”

“Plant & Food’s failed GE onion field trial location also needs to be made public, along with the exact GE constructs used there, so that civil society can ensure independent monitoring of potential contamination in the surrounding area.”

“Soil & Health – Organic NZ is committed to a vision of an organic focused nation where Plant & Food Research and the other Crown Research Institutes resources are committed to a clean green 100% Pure GE Free Aotearoa New Zealand.”
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