Huge GE Trial Response Federated Farmers Declare Support For Trials

Seth Robson
January 13, 2000
The Press (New Zealand)

A proposal to field-trial genetically engineered wheat in Canterbury has attracted a record number of submissions.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority, which plans a public hearing on the proposal in early April, says it has received 1418 submissions since Monsanto New Zealand lodged an application in September.

ERMA communications manager Karen Cronin said the large number of submissions, from industry, government agencies, organic farmers, environmental groups, Maoris, and individuals, could be attributed to increasing public interest in genetic engineering.

"This is the most submissions we have had.

"They cover a range of concerns including containment of the field trial, ecological and health risks, cultural risks, economic and social risks, and questions about the benefits," Ms Cronin said.

Monsanto New Zealand manager Michael Summons said the trials could lead to lower levels of pesticides in New Zealand wheat.

"One or two applications of Roundup would replace several applications of other pesticides," he said.

Roundup-ready wheat was essentially a research project and it would be several years before it would be commercially released, he said.

Green Party MP and health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley, a former convener of the Safe Food Campaign, said there were no benefits for New Zealand from growing genetically engineered wheat.

"It is essentially just a global multinational corporation using New Zealand as a convenient place to grow their seeds.

"The Greens believe that while we have a royal commission of inquiry being established there should be a moratorium on field trials, in particular, outdoor field trials such as this one," she said.

Federated Farmers' Grains Council chairman, Neil Barton, said farmers supported the trial because it would benefit New Zealand scientists.

"On balance we are for the trial because we believe our scientific community will get some advantage out of it and we think the risks are so negligible as to be almost non-existent.

"We need to keep in touch with the technology. It would be helpful if they could see how effective this technology was in wheat and if it could be put into New Zealand wheat varieties," Mr Barton said.


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