Visiting Professor on GE sales mission misrepresents reality

Agmardt and Pastoral Genomics Attacking Organics

Visiting Professor on GE sales mission misrepresents reality

New Zealand biotech interests are trying on an attack on New Zealand’s organic sector by funding University of California, Davis, Professor Pamela Ronald on a duplicitous public relations tour, according to the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand.

Professor Ronald, who has co-authored with her husband a book that suggests that genetic engineering (GE) and organic production can co-exist, has been brought to New Zealand by Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (Agmardt) and Pastoral Genomics who are increasingly dominated by pro- GE interests.

“Pamela Ronald’s presentation at the Royal Society today misrepresented both the reality of GE and organics in the world and avoided the dangers of GE to New Zealand’s primary production and tourism branding and markets, said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Suggesting that GE crops could be sustainable and fit within or alongside organic management systems is the ultimate untruth, yet that was Ronald’s key message.”

“Ronald’s suggestion that GE was needed to feed the world, flies in the face of the many reports showing the organic and biological GE free systems have significantly superior results exactly where the food is needed.”

“It is clear that the vested interests of the biotech and seed industries lodged in Agmardt and Pastoral Genomics do not mind misleading politicians, farmers and the New Zealand public to further their own interests.”

“Ronald has been discredited by the international organic community and fellow University of California academics, yet Agmardt and Pastoral Genomics have paid her to come to New Zealand.”

“Organic consumers worldwide want 100% GE free food regardless the acceptance of contamination by some governments overwhelmed by GE contamination.”

“Organic certification standards such as those of New Zealand’s BioGro have zero tolerance to GE seed, inputs or contamination and that is what consumers want.”

“New Zealand is well suited to maintain its GE free reputation in both organic and conventional exports as demand for GE free food is increasing internationally just as the unsustainability of GE production and evidence of health risks from consumption of GE foods grows,” said Mr Browning.

“At yesterday’s Royal Society presentation, organic consumers, producers and certifiers were amazed at Ronald’s intentional mixing the terminology of conventional breeding techniques and GE techniques to suggest they were essentially the same. Ronald also misrepresented the statistics in pesticide use in GE cropping internationally, focusing on just one insecticide equivalent.”

“Massive pesticide use is associated with GE production and infiltrating organics with GE plants, is neither needed nor wanted.”

“Ronald’s presentation totally avoided the significant failures of GE crops in many parts of the world, the collapse of rural communities, and emerging evidence of risks to health following independent animal feeding studies with GE foods.”

Ronald’s visit continues the pressure from the biotech industry and United States trade interests for New Zealand to relinquish its market advantage of being 100% free of GE crops, in a world increasingly contaminated by GE material.”

“United States seed interests dominate world production of genetic engineering and it is the seed that Ronald is so focused on getting into organics, “It is just a seed,” she disingenuously insisted.”

Ronald’s GE sales pitch follows a US Department of Agriculture international biotech policy specialist Terri Dunahay being hosted in the New Zealand’s science policy ministry (MoRST) and environmental regulator (ERMA), culminating in a 2010 report suggesting that resistance to GE contamination by the organic sector was a major impediment to GE forage plants being introduced into New Zealand pastures.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s Science & Technology advisor Nina Federoff visited early in 2010 hosted by MoRST with a similar misinformation pitch to Ronald’s, through Science Media, Listener magazine and key radio interviews. Wikileaks has shown the United States embassy here to be maintaining pressure on New Zealand to relax its regulations on GE.

Big US GE forestry and pharmaceutical interests are involved with GE field tests by AgResearch and Forest Research Institute (Scion) and US GE seed interests currently have no market in New Zealand.

“Ronald is just the next misleading US sales rep attempting to infiltrate our clean green nuclear free, GE free, 100% Pure NZ reputation,” said Mr Browning.

“Considering the growth in demand for organic and genuinely sustainable, animal friendly and residue free foods that fit with New Zealand’s clean green 100% Pure market image, why would we do anything else?”

Soil & Health – Organic NZ and the New Zealand organic sector remains resolute in its opposition to genetic engineering in food and the environment.