There is concern that a new application by AgResearch to move transgenic cows to a new site will be approved by ERMA, despite the lack of data on impacts on soil environments.
AgResearch has previously farmed on 100 acres deemed ‘in containment’, but the latest application opens up a whole new stage of transgenic cattle expansion around the country and any approval of the plan is tantamount to a ‘conditional release’.
ERMA have been complicit in allowing amendments under the HSNO Act that have gradually eroded the stringent approach, like allowing experimental GE cattle carrying different types of human transgenes to graze together.
ERMA has allowed through non public approvals for AgResearch to carry on breeding cows, but there have been no studies on the adverse effects that the animals have on the soil or ecosystem, only the offal pits where high levels of antibiotic resistant genes were found in the surrounding soil.
The need to research and study such data has been deliberately ignored as a key element of understanding GE biosecurity risk management, even though these animals have been continuously farmed in field development conditions for seven years.
The original approval for development trials was to see if transgenic products could be pharmed from milk, and to establish if the gene was stably passed to the first generation of calves. This was not successful in cows engineered with a gene to express myelin basic protein (MBP). Only four out of sixty calves were born. The process to produce lactogobulin was unviable. Cows carrying an extra casein gene were more productive. However when AgResearch was given permission by ERMA to import embryo’s containing human lactoferrin they broke the law by using transgenic cows to carry the embryo’s. Despite this breach, nothing ever came of it but a ‘warning’.
“This kind of deliberate disregard shows that ERMA has no will to follow the correct procedures that the Act prescribes and the public expect,” says Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in food and environment. “ERMA now see GE approvals as part of their ‘bread and butter’ income stream, and are side stepping sound science to enable GE expansion. It is just unbelievable that ERMA would accept an application relating to a new facility without any proof from existing trials that horizontal gene transfer, or adverse effects on humans or the environmental have not occurred.
“We fear that yet again the New Zealand public is at the mercy of big business and bureaucrats willing to ignore scientific rigour to promote certain interests, and that their mistakes will leave the taxpayer and our children to clean up the contaminated sites”.
“We are alarmed that yet again ERMA looks set to go through the pretence of listening to the public and to independent scientific calls for comprehensive testing for effects in GE field studies, but in reality taking not one bit of notice and instead finding ways to discount any concerns in order to approve the application,” said Mrs. Bleakley.
“When in future an adverse effect shows up they will feign astonishment and pass the buck to MAF”.
Claire Bleakley – (06) 3089842