The latest field trial of GE pine trees has been breached and the trees left littering the ground, but a history of repeated breaches of bio-security in GE trials shows the timber industry remains at long-term risk.
Given the timber industry is divided in its support for the trials, and the long-term risk to the economy of GE contamination, there are better uses for public-interest science.
"Over half of all New Zealand timber plantation are Forest Stewardship Council - certified and must exclude GM trees," says Claire Bleakley from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
"The lack of insurance for a commercial project with overseas partners unfairly exploits New Zealand and exposes the public to costs that weigh against further waste of public funds."
In 2008 the electrified fence at the site was breached and 19 GE pine trees that carried reproductive genes were cut down. The earlier trial of Norway Spruce (Abies nigra) were so diseased and stunted that they were destroyed. The field trial was shut down after a MAF Biosecurity report. This was then re-approved by ERMA in 2010 and planted in 2011.
Why is the Ministry responsible for Science and Innovation giving away scarce research monies to develop GE trees, when even Scion admit there is other research without the risks of GE that can benefit the industry? Last year, Soil and Health reported that the "Government has put $10.8 million science funding into the Rotorua project."
Incompetent running of a long-term GE trial which has the potential to pollute the soil, kill insects and cause damage to the surrounding Kaingaroa forest, demands a halt to GE trials in the open environment. The national interest must not be undermined by the commercial partners and government agencies with biotech interests choosing where to funnel public money for science and innovation.
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