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GE-Free NZ misquote Royal Commission report

Contrary to assertions by GE-Free NZ the Royal Commission did not say crops like GE onions had little to offer New Zealand, the Chairman of the Life Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston said today.

“What the Royal Commission said, at page 147, was “…the first wave of GM crops had little to offer NZ, apart from small, specific applications such as the counter-season seed multiplication or specialised pure seed production…”

“As pointed out to us by one of the members of the Royal Commission the same paragraph refers specifically to herbicide-resistant soya beans, canola and maize. The Royal Commission, we are told, focussed its comments on those commodity crops which had been the focus of the major GE developments up to 2001. The paragraph was not considered to be contrary to their main recommendation of proceeding cautiously to preserve opportunities. It also makes sense because New Zealand has never been a major grower of commodity crops for global markets.

“It’s clear that GE onions are a relatively “small, specific application” which has particular relevance to New Zealand growers and may also have export potential. Therefore the proposal fits squarely within the sort of activity envisaged by the Royal Commission – not outside it.

“But rather than misinterpreting what the Royal Commission clearly intended we would hope GE-Free NZ would tell us why growers and communities should have to forgo the environmental benefits which these onions have the potential to deliver.

“What realistic alternatives are being offered which are as cost effective, maintain or increase yields and are likely to reduce herbicide usage as much at the development of herbicide tolerant onions? The application from Crop & Food Research makes it clear that growing onions organically is not an effective substitute.

“The proposed field tests are all about checking that the results obtained in the laboratory are reflected in the field. If this research isn’t done the puzzle remains uncompleted. GE-Free NZ should participate in the ERMA process so their concerns can be addressed,” concluded Dr Rolleston.

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