Previously known as Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics PSRGNZ - Charitable Trust
As required under the new 2005 Charities Act, PSGR has reregistered as a charitable trust.

15 May 2013 

 

Auckland Council

Private Bag 92300

Auckland 1142

 

Submission to the Unitary Plan

PSGR urges Auckland Council to insert into the Unitary Plan the provisions, objectives, policies, and rules produced by the Inter Council Working Party (ICWP) on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options of which Auckland Council is a full member.[1] 

The above document shows local government has jurisdiction under the Local Government Act (LGA) and Resource Management Act (RMA) to regulate genetically engineered/modified organisms.  This jurisdiction has subsequently been confirmed by Crown Law and by Ministers for the Environment.

A previous ICWP report argued that provisions in planning documents formulated under the RMA would be the most appropriate mechanism to regulate activities involving transgenic organisms in the environment at a local or regional level.

The ICWP also investigated the nature and extent of risks local authorities could expect to face from transgenic organisms in the environment and the options available to address those risks.  

PSGR urges Auckland Council to prohibit the release of genetically engineered/modified organisms into the environment, and also urges a requirement for discretionary consent with liability conditions attached for EPA approved outdoor field trials of such organisms.

 

PSGR urges Council to apply a precautionary policy on genetically engineered organisms in order to meet its duty of care to its ratepayers and to protect its environment and community from uninsurable long-term costs and damage that may arise given the scientific uncertainty that surrounds transgenic organisms in situations of commercial open release.

We quote from the ICWP findings:  “... there are significant risks to local government and their communities from outdoor use of GMOs, including environmental, economic and socio-cultural risks” and “the potential adverse effects of releasing GMOs into the environment could be significant – including possible major and long term harm.  Moreover, these effects could be irreversible.”[i] 

The plan provisions commissioned by the ICWP “provide for a precautionary approach to the way the use of natural resources is managed for the outdoor use of GMOs in order to achieve the purpose of the RMA”.  It also covers “a rationale for prohibiting the general release of a GMO in district and unitary plans pending the availability of sufficient information about the risk of any potential effects of the activities on the environment.  The evaluation also reflects community values in respect of the environmental risks the community is prepared to accept at the moment.”i

Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility is a Charitable Trust established to provide independent scientific assessment and advice on matters relating to genetic engineering and other associated scientific matters.  The Trustees ask Auckland Council to take into consideration the following concerns for a sustainable district and a healthy community in your region.

The terms genetic modification and biotechnology are often used for the deliberate process of genetic engineering, which we take as the most accurate description of the technology.  While biotechnology encompasses many other processes and offers many important non-transgenic applications that have contributed largely to support and improve agriculture, genetic engineering is the main focus of our concern because of the manner in which it impinges on organisms and their ecological relationships. 

The application of genetic engineering technology alters the DNA of a living organism in ways which are much more radical than what occurs due to the generally incremental, slow processes of natural evolution.  It does this in a way that is inevitably disruptive to some degree as a result of the essentially random insertion of transgenic (or cisgenic) DNA into the functional DNA of a host organism.  It may cause noticeable changes in the appearance of the organism and/or differences in the biochemistry and physiology of the organism.  These changes are unpredictable and may result in the production of new proteins, with potential toxic effects, within the transgenic organism.  

Many scientists are concerned about releasing genetically engineered organisms into the environment.  That genetic engineering is of community significance for councils to address was amply determined in a 2009 Colmar Brunton Poll.[2]  New Zealand companies are concerned.  Fonterra has said there is insufficient support in this country or from overseas customers to warrant local production of food from genetically engineered sources, and food producers Heinz Watties, Goodman Fielder and others have GE free policies.[ii] 

When genetically engineered organisms are released into the environment their transgenes can be transferred to other organisms so that the engineered characteristics spread through the eco-system.  Farmers in the US face having to eradicate weed species that have developed herbicide-resistant traits, including resistance to multiple herbicides.  These so-named ‘superweeds’ can grow aggressively and out-compete transgenic crops.  Over-application of herbicides and pesticides to transgenic crops has increased substantially the volume of agricultural chemicals used and this has aided in the development of weeds resistant to those chemicals.

In December 2012, the Foundation for Arable Research confirmed New Zealand’s first case of glyphosate-resistant ryegrass in a Marlborough vineyard and blamed frequent applications of that herbicide as the cause.[iii]  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the widely applied herbicide RoundUp.  Introducing transgenic ryegrass, which is in development, into this country’s pastures would potentially contaminate conventional ryegrasses and would jeopardise our substantial ryegrass seed export industry.[iv]  Resistant crops are seen as culpable in the emergence of herbicide-resistant weed species. 

Trevor James of AgResearch is reported as saying:  “There are 61 weeds all around the world resistant to glyphosate; there are six in Australia and it's a major problem with their cropping...”[v] Ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) is an acknowledged problematic weed in Australia and the first glyphosate-resistant weed was annual ryegrass which emerged in 1996.[vi] 

Each year weeds cost Australia over AUD$4 billion in control and lost production.[vii]  Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) costs the Australian grain industry AUD$140 million/p.a. for weed control and in lost production.[viii]  Britain’s advisory committee on releases to the environment (ACRE) identified wild radish, wild turnip, hoary mustard, brown mustard and wild cabbage as species from which hybrids could be formed with the transgenic canola/rapeseed varieties.  A Swedish study found transgenic canola seed could remain viable in the wild even 10 years after release.[ix]  In one field trial plot, researchers found 46% of seeds in a wild turnip plant contaminated with transgenic DNA.[x]  Wild radish, wild turnip and wild cabbage grow in New Zealand. 

Dr Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Centre for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, US, states:  the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied.  If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%.[xi]  

Transgenic crops are being developed to resist 2,4-D (an ingredient in Agent Orange), dicamba (a herbicide in the 2,4-D family), HPPD-inhibiting herbicides, and glyphosate and AL (GAT).[xii]

Food Standards ANZ has recently approved for use in food products a transgenic soy resistant to 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), glufosinate ammonium, and glyphosate.  Such transgenic crops potentially also endanger the human environment.  In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a statement ‘Genetically Modified Foods’ that included:  “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health and are without benefit.”[xiii] 

Industry claim transgenic crops benefit farmers.  Hear from US farmers who planted transgenic crops on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEX654gN3c4&feature=plcp (24 minutes) and an interview with Nnimmo Bassey, head of Friends of the Earth International speaking of farmers in India, south-east Asia, Africa and Latin America (8.18 minutes),

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/19/gm-crops-insecurity-superweeds-pesticides.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASSTD) is a large, comprehensive United Nations study.  It supports the thesis that transgenic crops could threaten food security.[xiv]

Wilding pines are aggressive, invasive colonisers and a threat to biodiversity, farm productivity and landscape values.[xv]  Ninety percent of our plantation forests are in pinus radiata[xvi] which generate wilding pines to flourish from coastal areas to high altitudes.  Pines seed efficiently and widely.  These pines compete with native trees and plants and pine needles discourage regeneration of native forest floor species.  Wilding pines create economic and environmental consequences for Regional Councils and Councils will be aware of the heavy costs incurred in removing them.  The monitory sources used for control deplete the public purse.

Of concern to PSGR was the approval[3] for the New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited, trading as Scion, to plant pinus radiata with a number of engineered traits.  The premise was that the trees would largely be engineered using what is commonly termed ‘terminator’ technology, making the trees sterile, i.e. not able to flower or replicate.  Transgenic traits are likely to be unstable and the variants of terminator technology offer no absolute guarantee of sterility.  The traits can break down and the trees revert to flowering.  Genes can spread horizontally in soil bacteria, fungi and other organisms in the extensive root system of forest trees.  There could be long-term impacts on soil biota and fertility.  Trees that do not flower and fruit cannot provide food for the organisms that feed on pollen, nectar, seed and fruit; thus, essential pollinating insects may not be available, especially for beekeepers, horticulturalists and crop growers. 

Herbicide-resistant pines could lead to wilding pine super weeds.  Worrying is the fact that conventional pinus radiata seeds have been found viable “at least up to twenty-four years”[xvii] and distance is no guarantee of safety from contamination.  Sing el al (1993) found pollen from pine trees had travelled over 600 kms.  It would need a failure rate of only a part of a percent for transgenes in pollen to contaminate other trees, potentially at great distances, in ways that could not easily be monitored.

The risks are environmental and economic.  Terminator technology has attracted a voluntary moratorium from many countries because of the risks involved.  The effect on New Zealand’s reputation overseas and exports could be damaging. 

Summary

With the tools contained in the latest release from the ICWP, Councils have the means to endorse their plans with a precautionary statement, or something more stringent, to avoid the undesirable effects of transgenic organisms.

We repeat our quote from the ICWP findings:  “... there are significant risks to local government and their communities from outdoor use of GMOs, including environmental, economic and socio-cultural risks” and “the potential adverse effects of releasing GMOs into the environment could be significant – including possible major and long term harm.  Moreover, these effects could be irreversible.”i 

For accurate information and to guide your decision making and plan development, we recommend the comprehensive analysis[4] of the myths and truths relating to genetically engineered organisms and peer-reviewed studies, the executive summary of which follows this letter.  This document supports PSGR's recommendation.

PSGR urges Council to apply strong precautionary policies on genetically engineered organisms for its Unitary Plan to meet its duty of care to ratepayers and to protect the environment under its jurisdiction. 

We look forward to your response

 

The Trustees of PSGR

 

 

GMO Myths and Truths

http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf,

 

An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops,Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson, John Fagan; June 2012, Earth Open Source http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/58

Executive Summary:  Genetically modified (GM) crops are promoted on the basis of a range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters. They say that GM crops:

·         Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops

·         Are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops

·         Are strictly regulated for safety

·         Increase crop yields

·         Reduce pesticide use

·         Benefit farmers and make their lives easier

·         Bring economic benefits

·         Benefit the environment

·         Can help solve problems caused by climate change

·         Reduce energy use

·         Will help feed the world.

However, a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence shows that these claims are not true.  On the contrary, evidence presented in this report indicates that GM crops:

·         Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops

·         Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts

·         Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety

·         Do not increase yield potential

·         Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it

·         Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds”, compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops

·         Have mixed economic effects

·         Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity

·         Do not offer effective solutions to climate change

·         Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops

·         Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.

Based on the evidence presented in this report, there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist.  Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.  See the full document on http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf.    

 

See also PSGR Frequently Asked Questions on Genetic Engineering www.psgr.org.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=54&Itemid=25.

 



[i] ‘Managing Risks Associated with the Outdoor Use of Genetically Modified Organisms Proposed Plan Change, Section 32 Report, and Legal Opinion’ cover note by Dr Kerry Grundy, Convener of the Inter-council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options.  Documents on www.wdc.govt.nz.

[ii]The Greenpeace GE Free Food Guide is to be updated in 2013 http://www.gefreefood.org.nz/.

[iii] www.far.org.nz/index.php/media/entry/glyphosate-resistance-confirmed-in-new-zealand

[vi] Sydney Morning Herald, 8 May 2012.

[ix] ‘Long-term persistence of GM oilseed rape in the seedbank’, D’Hertefeldt T et al, Biol Lett. 23 June 2008; 4(3): 314–317. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610060/.

[xv] ‘Wilding conifers - New Zealand history and research background’, a presentation by Nick Ledgard at the "Managing wilding conifers in New Zealand - present and future" workshop (2003).

[xvi] ‘Situation and outlook for New Zealand agriculture and forestry’, NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 2007. 

[xvii] ‘The Fire Pines’, Richard Warren and Alfred J Fordham, http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1040.pdf

 

Ends

15 May 2013  

Auckland Council

Private Bag 92300

Auckland 1142

 

Submission to the Unitary Plan

PSGR urges Auckland Council to insert into the Unitary Plan the provisions, objectives, policies, and rules produced by the Inter Council Working Party (ICWP) on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options of which Auckland Council is a full member.[1] 

The above document shows local government has jurisdiction under the Local Government Act (LGA) and Resource Management Act (RMA) to regulate genetically engineered/modified organisms.  This jurisdiction has subsequently been confirmed by Crown Law and by Ministers for the Environment.

A previous ICWP report argued that provisions in planning documents formulated under the RMA would be the most appropriate mechanism to regulate activities involving transgenic organisms in the environment at a local or regional level.

The ICWP also investigated the nature and extent of risks local authorities could expect to face from transgenic organisms in the environment and the options available to address those risks.  

PSGR urges Auckland Council to prohibit the release of genetically engineered/modified organisms into the environment, and also urges a requirement for discretionary consent with liability conditions attached for EPA approved outdoor field trials of such organisms.

PSGR urges Council to apply a precautionary policy on genetically engineered organisms in order to meet its duty of care to its ratepayers and to protect its environment and community from uninsurable long-term costs and damage that may arise given the scientific uncertainty that surrounds transgenic organisms in situations of commercial open release.

We quote from the ICWP findings:  “... there are significant risks to local government and their communities from outdoor use of GMOs, including environmental, economic and socio-cultural risks” and “the potential adverse effects of releasing GMOs into the environment could be significant – including possible major and long term harm.  Moreover, these effects could be irreversible.”[i] 

The plan provisions commissioned by the ICWP “provide for a precautionary approach to the way the use of natural resources is managed for the outdoor use of GMOs in order to achieve the purpose of the RMA”.  It also covers “a rationale for prohibiting the general release of a GMO in district and unitary plans pending the availability of sufficient information about the risk of any potential effects of the activities on the environment.  The evaluation also reflects community values in respect of the environmental risks the community is prepared to accept at the moment.”i

Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility is a Charitable Trust established to provide independent scientific assessment and advice on matters relating to genetic engineering and other associated scientific matters.  The Trustees ask Auckland Council to take into consideration the following concerns for a sustainable district and a healthy community in your region.

The terms genetic modification and biotechnology are often used for the deliberate process of genetic engineering, which we take as the most accurate description of the technology.  While biotechnology encompasses many other processes and offers many important non-transgenic applications that have contributed largely to support and improve agriculture, genetic engineering is the main focus of our concern because of the manner in which it impinges on organisms and their ecological relationships. 

The application of genetic engineering technology alters the DNA of a living organism in ways which are much more radical than what occurs due to the generally incremental, slow processes of natural evolution.  It does this in a way that is inevitably disruptive to some degree as a result of the essentially random insertion of transgenic (or cisgenic) DNA into the functional DNA of a host organism.  It may cause noticeable changes in the appearance of the organism and/or differences in the biochemistry and physiology of the organism.  These changes are unpredictable and may result in the production of new proteins, with potential toxic effects, within the transgenic organism.  

Many scientists are concerned about releasing genetically engineered organisms into the environment.  That genetic engineering is of community significance for councils to address was amply determined in a 2009 Colmar Brunton Poll.[2]  New Zealand companies are concerned.  Fonterra has said there is insufficient support in this country or from overseas customers to warrant local production of food from genetically engineered sources, and food producers Heinz Watties, Goodman Fielder and others have GE free policies.[ii] 

When genetically engineered organisms are released into the environment their transgenes can be transferred to other organisms so that the engineered characteristics spread through the eco-system.  Farmers in the US face having to eradicate weed species that have developed herbicide-resistant traits, including resistance to multiple herbicides.  These so-named ‘superweeds’ can grow aggressively and out-compete transgenic crops.  Over-application of herbicides and pesticides to transgenic crops has increased substantially the volume of agricultural chemicals used and this has aided in the development of weeds resistant to those chemicals.

In December 2012, the Foundation for Arable Research confirmed New Zealand’s first case of glyphosate-resistant ryegrass in a Marlborough vineyard and blamed frequent applications of that herbicide as the cause.[iii]  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the widely applied herbicide RoundUp.  Introducing transgenic ryegrass, which is in development, into this country’s pastures would potentially contaminate conventional ryegrasses and would jeopardise our substantial ryegrass seed export industry.[iv]  Resistant crops are seen as culpable in the emergence of herbicide-resistant weed species. 

Trevor James of AgResearch is reported as saying:  “There are 61 weeds all around the world resistant to glyphosate; there are six in Australia and it's a major problem with their cropping...”[v] Ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) is an acknowledged problematic weed in Australia and the first glyphosate-resistant weed was annual ryegrass which emerged in 1996.[vi] 

Each year weeds cost Australia over AUD$4 billion in control and lost production.[vii]  Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) costs the Australian grain industry AUD$140 million/p.a. for weed control and in lost production.[viii]  Britain’s advisory committee on releases to the environment (ACRE) identified wild radish, wild turnip, hoary mustard, brown mustard and wild cabbage as species from which hybrids could be formed with the transgenic canola/rapeseed varieties.  A Swedish study found transgenic canola seed could remain viable in the wild even 10 years after release.[ix]  In one field trial plot, researchers found 46% of seeds in a wild turnip plant contaminated with transgenic DNA.[x]  Wild radish, wild turnip and wild cabbage grow in New Zealand. 

Dr Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Centre for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, US, states:  the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied.  If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%.[xi]  

Transgenic crops are being developed to resist 2,4-D (an ingredient in Agent Orange), dicamba (a herbicide in the 2,4-D family), HPPD-inhibiting herbicides, and glyphosate and AL (GAT).[xii]

Food Standards ANZ has recently approved for use in food products a transgenic soy resistant to 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), glufosinate ammonium, and glyphosate.  Such transgenic crops potentially also endanger the human environment.  In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a statement ‘Genetically Modified Foods’ that included:  “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health and are without benefit.”[xiii] 

Industry claim transgenic crops benefit farmers.  Hear from US farmers who planted transgenic crops on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEX654gN3c4&feature=plcp (24 minutes) and an interview with Nnimmo Bassey, head of Friends of the Earth International speaking of farmers in India, south-east Asia, Africa and Latin America (8.18 minutes),

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/19/gm-crops-insecurity-superweeds-pesticides.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASSTD) is a large, comprehensive United Nations study.  It supports the thesis that transgenic crops could threaten food security.[xiv]

Wilding pines are aggressive, invasive colonisers and a threat to biodiversity, farm productivity and landscape values.[xv]  Ninety percent of our plantation forests are in pinus radiata[xvi] which generate wilding pines to flourish from coastal areas to high altitudes.  Pines seed efficiently and widely.  These pines compete with native trees and plants and pine needles discourage regeneration of native forest floor species.  Wilding pines create economic and environmental consequences for Regional Councils and Councils will be aware of the heavy costs incurred in removing them.  The monitory sources used for control deplete the public purse.

Of concern to PSGR was the approval[3] for the New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited, trading as Scion, to plant pinus radiata with a number of engineered traits.  The premise was that the trees would largely be engineered using what is commonly termed ‘terminator’ technology, making the trees sterile, i.e. not able to flower or replicate.  Transgenic traits are likely to be unstable and the variants of terminator technology offer no absolute guarantee of sterility.  The traits can break down and the trees revert to flowering.  Genes can spread horizontally in soil bacteria, fungi and other organisms in the extensive root system of forest trees.  There could be long-term impacts on soil biota and fertility.  Trees that do not flower and fruit cannot provide food for the organisms that feed on pollen, nectar, seed and fruit; thus, essential pollinating insects may not be available, especially for beekeepers, horticulturalists and crop growers. 

Herbicide-resistant pines could lead to wilding pine super weeds.  Worrying is the fact that conventional pinus radiata seeds have been found viable “at least up to twenty-four years”[xvii] and distance is no guarantee of safety from contamination.  Sing el al (1993) found pollen from pine trees had travelled over 600 kms.  It would need a failure rate of only a part of a percent for transgenes in pollen to contaminate other trees, potentially at great distances, in ways that could not easily be monitored.

The risks are environmental and economic.  Terminator technology has attracted a voluntary moratorium from many countries because of the risks involved.  The effect on New Zealand’s reputation overseas and exports could be damaging. 

Summary

With the tools contained in the latest release from the ICWP, Councils have the means to endorse their plans with a precautionary statement, or something more stringent, to avoid the undesirable effects of transgenic organisms.

We repeat our quote from the ICWP findings:  “... there are significant risks to local government and their communities from outdoor use of GMOs, including environmental, economic and socio-cultural risks” and “the potential adverse effects of releasing GMOs into the environment could be significant – including possible major and long term harm.  Moreover, these effects could be irreversible.”i 

For accurate information and to guide your decision making and plan development, we recommend the comprehensive analysis[4] of the myths and truths relating to genetically engineered organisms and peer-reviewed studies, the executive summary of which follows this letter.  This document supports PSGR's recommendation.

PSGR urges Council to apply strong precautionary policies on genetically engineered organisms for its Unitary Plan to meet its duty of care to ratepayers and to protect the environment under its jurisdiction. 

We look forward to your response

 

The Trustees of PSGR

 

 

GMO Myths and Truths

http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf,

 

An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops,Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson, John Fagan; June 2012, Earth Open Source http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/58

Executive Summary:  Genetically modified (GM) crops are promoted on the basis of a range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters. They say that GM crops:

·         Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops

·         Are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops

·         Are strictly regulated for safety

·         Increase crop yields

·         Reduce pesticide use

·         Benefit farmers and make their lives easier

·         Bring economic benefits

·         Benefit the environment

·         Can help solve problems caused by climate change

·         Reduce energy use

·         Will help feed the world.

However, a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence shows that these claims are not true.  On the contrary, evidence presented in this report indicates that GM crops:

·         Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops

·         Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts

·         Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety

·         Do not increase yield potential

·         Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it

·         Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds”, compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops

·         Have mixed economic effects

·         Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity

·         Do not offer effective solutions to climate change

·         Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops

·         Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.

Based on the evidence presented in this report, there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist.  Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.  See the full document on http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf.    

 

See also PSGR Frequently Asked Questions on Genetic Engineering www.psgr.org.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=54&Itemid=25.

 



[i] ‘Managing Risks Associated with the Outdoor Use of Genetically Modified Organisms Proposed Plan Change, Section 32 Report, and Legal Opinion’ cover note by Dr Kerry Grundy, Convener of the Inter-council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options.  Documents on www.wdc.govt.nz.

[ii]The Greenpeace GE Free Food Guide is to be updated in 2013 http://www.gefreefood.org.nz/.

[iii] www.far.org.nz/index.php/media/entry/glyphosate-resistance-confirmed-in-new-zealand

[vi] Sydney Morning Herald, 8 May 2012.

[ix] ‘Long-term persistence of GM oilseed rape in the seedbank’, D’Hertefeldt T et al, Biol Lett. 23 June 2008; 4(3): 314–317. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610060/.

[xv] ‘Wilding conifers - New Zealand history and research background’, a presentation by Nick Ledgard at the "Managing wilding conifers in New Zealand - present and future" workshop (2003).

[xvi] ‘Situation and outlook for New Zealand agriculture and forestry’, NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 2007. 

[xvii] ‘The Fire Pines’, Richard Warren and Alfred J Fordham, http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1040.pdf

 

Ends

15 May 2013  

Auckland Council

Private Bag 92300

Auckland 1142

 

Submission to the Unitary Plan

PSGR urges Auckland Council to insert into the Unitary Plan the provisions, objectives, policies, and rules produced by the Inter Council Working Party (ICWP) on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options of which Auckland Council is a full member.[1] 

The above document shows local government has jurisdiction under the Local Government Act (LGA) and Resource Management Act (RMA) to regulate genetically engineered/modified organisms.  This jurisdiction has subsequently been confirmed by Crown Law and by Ministers for the Environment.

A previous ICWP report argued that provisions in planning documents formulated under the RMA would be the most appropriate mechanism to regulate activities involving transgenic organisms in the environment at a local or regional level.

The ICWP also investigated the nature and extent of risks local authorities could expect to face from transgenic organisms in the environment and the options available to address those risks.  

PSGR urges Auckland Council to prohibit the release of genetically engineered/modified organisms into the environment, and also urges a requirement for discretionary consent with liability conditions attached for EPA approved outdoor field trials of such organisms.

PSGR urges Council to apply a precautionary policy on genetically engineered organisms in order to meet its duty of care to its ratepayers and to protect its environment and community from uninsurable long-term costs and damage that may arise given the scientific uncertainty that surrounds transgenic organisms in situations of commercial open release.

We quote from the ICWP findings:  “... there are significant risks to local government and their communities from outdoor use of GMOs, including environmental, economic and socio-cultural risks” and “the potential adverse effects of releasing GMOs into the environment could be significant – including possible major and long term harm.  Moreover, these effects could be irreversible.”[i] 

The plan provisions commissioned by the ICWP “provide for a precautionary approach to the way the use of natural resources is managed for the outdoor use of GMOs in order to achieve the purpose of the RMA”.  It also covers “a rationale for prohibiting the general release of a GMO in district and unitary plans pending the availability of sufficient information about the risk of any potential effects of the activities on the environment.  The evaluation also reflects community values in respect of the environmental risks the community is prepared to accept at the moment.”i

Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility is a Charitable Trust established to provide independent scientific assessment and advice on matters relating to genetic engineering and other associated scientific matters.  The Trustees ask Auckland Council to take into consideration the following concerns for a sustainable district and a healthy community in your region.

The terms genetic modification and biotechnology are often used for the deliberate process of genetic engineering, which we take as the most accurate description of the technology.  While biotechnology encompasses many other processes and offers many important non-transgenic applications that have contributed largely to support and improve agriculture, genetic engineering is the main focus of our concern because of the manner in which it impinges on organisms and their ecological relationships. 

The application of genetic engineering technology alters the DNA of a living organism in ways which are much more radical than what occurs due to the generally incremental, slow processes of natural evolution.  It does this in a way that is inevitably disruptive to some degree as a result of the essentially random insertion of transgenic (or cisgenic) DNA into the functional DNA of a host organism.  It may cause noticeable changes in the appearance of the organism and/or differences in the biochemistry and physiology of the organism.  These changes are unpredictable and may result in the production of new proteins, with potential toxic effects, within the transgenic organism.  

Many scientists are concerned about releasing genetically engineered organisms into the environment.  That genetic engineering is of community significance for councils to address was amply determined in a 2009 Colmar Brunton Poll.[2]  New Zealand companies are concerned.  Fonterra has said there is insufficient support in this country or from overseas customers to warrant local production of food from genetically engineered sources, and food producers Heinz Watties, Goodman Fielder and others have GE free policies.[ii] 

When genetically engineered organisms are released into the environment their transgenes can be transferred to other organisms so that the engineered characteristics spread through the eco-system.  Farmers in the US face having to eradicate weed species that have developed herbicide-resistant traits, including resistance to multiple herbicides.  These so-named ‘superweeds’ can grow aggressively and out-compete transgenic crops.  Over-application of herbicides and pesticides to transgenic crops has increased substantially the volume of agricultural chemicals used and this has aided in the development of weeds resistant to those chemicals.

In December 2012, the Foundation for Arable Research confirmed New Zealand’s first case of glyphosate-resistant ryegrass in a Marlborough vineyard and blamed frequent applications of that herbicide as the cause.[iii]  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the widely applied herbicide RoundUp.  Introducing transgenic ryegrass, which is in development, into this country’s pastures would potentially contaminate conventional ryegrasses and would jeopardise our substantial ryegrass seed export industry.[iv]  Resistant crops are seen as culpable in the emergence of herbicide-resistant weed species. 

Trevor James of AgResearch is reported as saying:  “There are 61 weeds all around the world resistant to glyphosate; there are six in Australia and it's a major problem with their cropping...”[v] Ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) is an acknowledged problematic weed in Australia and the first glyphosate-resistant weed was annual ryegrass which emerged in 1996.[vi] 

Each year weeds cost Australia over AUD$4 billion in control and lost production.[vii]  Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) costs the Australian grain industry AUD$140 million/p.a. for weed control and in lost production.[viii]  Britain’s advisory committee on releases to the environment (ACRE) identified wild radish, wild turnip, hoary mustard, brown mustard and wild cabbage as species from which hybrids could be formed with the transgenic canola/rapeseed varieties.  A Swedish study found transgenic canola seed could remain viable in the wild even 10 years after release.[ix]  In one field trial plot, researchers found 46% of seeds in a wild turnip plant contaminated with transgenic DNA.[x]  Wild radish, wild turnip and wild cabbage grow in New Zealand. 

Dr Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Centre for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, US, states:  the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied.  If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%.[xi]  

Transgenic crops are being developed to resist 2,4-D (an ingredient in Agent Orange), dicamba (a herbicide in the 2,4-D family), HPPD-inhibiting herbicides, and glyphosate and AL (GAT).[xii]

Food Standards ANZ has recently approved for use in food products a transgenic soy resistant to 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), glufosinate ammonium, and glyphosate.  Such transgenic crops potentially also endanger the human environment.  In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a statement ‘Genetically Modified Foods’ that included:  “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health and are without benefit.”[xiii] 

Industry claim transgenic crops benefit farmers.  Hear from US farmers who planted transgenic crops on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEX654gN3c4&feature=plcp (24 minutes) and an interview with Nnimmo Bassey, head of Friends of the Earth International speaking of farmers in India, south-east Asia, Africa and Latin America (8.18 minutes),

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/19/gm-crops-insecurity-superweeds-pesticides.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASSTD) is a large, comprehensive United Nations study.  It supports the thesis that transgenic crops could threaten food security.[xiv]

Wilding pines are aggressive, invasive colonisers and a threat to biodiversity, farm productivity and landscape values.[xv]  Ninety percent of our plantation forests are in pinus radiata[xvi] which generate wilding pines to flourish from coastal areas to high altitudes.  Pines seed efficiently and widely.  These pines compete with native trees and plants and pine needles discourage regeneration of native forest floor species.  Wilding pines create economic and environmental consequences for Regional Councils and Councils will be aware of the heavy costs incurred in removing them.  The monitory sources used for control deplete the public purse.

Of concern to PSGR was the approval[3] for the New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited, trading as Scion, to plant pinus radiata with a number of engineered traits.  The premise was that the trees would largely be engineered using what is commonly termed ‘terminator’ technology, making the trees sterile, i.e. not able to flower or replicate.  Transgenic traits are likely to be unstable and the variants of terminator technology offer no absolute guarantee of sterility.  The traits can break down and the trees revert to flowering.  Genes can spread horizontally in soil bacteria, fungi and other organisms in the extensive root system of forest trees.  There could be long-term impacts on soil biota and fertility.  Trees that do not flower and fruit cannot provide food for the organisms that feed on pollen, nectar, seed and fruit; thus, essential pollinating insects may not be available, especially for beekeepers, horticulturalists and crop growers. 

Herbicide-resistant pines could lead to wilding pine super weeds.  Worrying is the fact that conventional pinus radiata seeds have been found viable “at least up to twenty-four years”[xvii] and distance is no guarantee of safety from contamination.  Sing el al (1993) found pollen from pine trees had travelled over 600 kms.  It would need a failure rate of only a part of a percent for transgenes in pollen to contaminate other trees, potentially at great distances, in ways that could not easily be monitored.

The risks are environmental and economic.  Terminator technology has attracted a voluntary moratorium from many countries because of the risks involved.  The effect on New Zealand’s reputation overseas and exports could be damaging. 

Summary

With the tools contained in the latest release from the ICWP, Councils have the means to endorse their plans with a precautionary statement, or something more stringent, to avoid the undesirable effects of transgenic organisms.

We repeat our quote from the ICWP findings:  “... there are significant risks to local government and their communities from outdoor use of GMOs, including environmental, economic and socio-cultural risks” and “the potential adverse effects of releasing GMOs into the environment could be significant – including possible major and long term harm.  Moreover, these effects could be irreversible.”i 

For accurate information and to guide your decision making and plan development, we recommend the comprehensive analysis[4] of the myths and truths relating to genetically engineered organisms and peer-reviewed studies, the executive summary of which follows this letter.  This document supports PSGR's recommendation.

PSGR urges Council to apply strong precautionary policies on genetically engineered organisms for its Unitary Plan to meet its duty of care to ratepayers and to protect the environment under its jurisdiction. 

We look forward to your response

 

The Trustees of PSGR

 

 

GMO Myths and Truths

http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf,

 

An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops,Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson, John Fagan; June 2012, Earth Open Source http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/58

Executive Summary:  Genetically modified (GM) crops are promoted on the basis of a range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters. They say that GM crops:

·         Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops

·         Are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops

·         Are strictly regulated for safety

·         Increase crop yields

·         Reduce pesticide use

·         Benefit farmers and make their lives easier

·         Bring economic benefits

·         Benefit the environment

·         Can help solve problems caused by climate change

·         Reduce energy use

·         Will help feed the world.

However, a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence shows that these claims are not true.  On the contrary, evidence presented in this report indicates that GM crops:

·         Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops

·         Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts

·         Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety

·         Do not increase yield potential

·         Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it

·         Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds”, compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops

·         Have mixed economic effects

·         Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity

·         Do not offer effective solutions to climate change

·         Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops

·         Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.

Based on the evidence presented in this report, there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist.  Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.  See the full document on http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf.    

 

See also PSGR Frequently Asked Questions on Genetic Engineering www.psgr.org.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=54&Itemid=25.

 



[i] ‘Managing Risks Associated with the Outdoor Use of Genetically Modified Organisms Proposed Plan Change, Section 32 Report, and Legal Opinion’ cover note by Dr Kerry Grundy, Convener of the Inter-council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options.  Documents on www.wdc.govt.nz.

[ii]The Greenpeace GE Free Food Guide is to be updated in 2013 http://www.gefreefood.org.nz/.

[iii] www.far.org.nz/index.php/media/entry/glyphosate-resistance-confirmed-in-new-zealand

[vi] Sydney Morning Herald, 8 May 2012.

[ix] ‘Long-term persistence of GM oilseed rape in the seedbank’, D’Hertefeldt T et al, Biol Lett. 23 June 2008; 4(3): 314–317. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610060/.

[xv] ‘Wilding conifers - New Zealand history and research background’, a presentation by Nick Ledgard at the "Managing wilding conifers in New Zealand - present and future" workshop (2003).

[xvi] ‘Situation and outlook for New Zealand agriculture and forestry’, NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 2007. 

[xvii] ‘The Fire Pines’, Richard Warren and Alfred J Fordham, http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1040.pdf

 

Ends

15 May 2013  

Auckland Council

Private Bag 92300

Auckland 1142

 

Submission to the Unitary Plan

PSGR urges Auckland Council to insert into the Unitary Plan the provisions, objectives, policies, and rules produced by the Inter Council Working Party (ICWP) on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options of which Auckland Council is a full member.[1] 

The above document shows local government has jurisdiction under the Local Government Act (LGA) and Resource Management Act (RMA) to regulate genetically engineered/modified organisms.  This jurisdiction has subsequently been confirmed by Crown Law and by Ministers for the Environment.

A previous ICWP report argued that provisions in planning documents formulated under the RMA would be the most appropriate mechanism to regulate activities involving transgenic organisms in the environment at a local or regional level.

The ICWP also investigated the nature and extent of risks local authorities could expect to face from transgenic organisms in the environment and the options available to address those risks.  

PSGR urges Auckland Council to prohibit the release of genetically engineered/modified organisms into the environment, and also urges a requirement for discretionary consent with liability conditions attached for EPA approved outdoor field trials of such organisms.

PSGR urges Council to apply a precautionary policy on genetically engineered organisms in order to meet its duty of care to its ratepayers and to protect its environment and community from uninsurable long-term costs and damage that may arise given the scientific uncertainty that surrounds transgenic organisms in situations of commercial open release.

We quote from the ICWP findings:  “... there are significant risks to local government and their communities from outdoor use of GMOs, including environmental, economic and socio-cultural risks” and “the potential adverse effects of releasing GMOs into the environment could be significant – including possible major and long term harm.  Moreover, these effects could be irreversible.”[i] 

The plan provisions commissioned by the ICWP “provide for a precautionary approach to the way the use of natural resources is managed for the outdoor use of GMOs in order to achieve the purpose of the RMA”.  It also covers “a rationale for prohibiting the general release of a GMO in district and unitary plans pending the availability of sufficient information about the risk of any potential effects of the activities on the environment.  The evaluation also reflects community values in respect of the environmental risks the community is prepared to accept at the moment.”i

Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility is a Charitable Trust established to provide independent scientific assessment and advice on matters relating to genetic engineering and other associated scientific matters.  The Trustees ask Auckland Council to take into consideration the following concerns for a sustainable district and a healthy community in your region.

The terms genetic modification and biotechnology are often used for the deliberate process of genetic engineering, which we take as the most accurate description of the technology.  While biotechnology encompasses many other processes and offers many important non-transgenic applications that have contributed largely to support and improve agriculture, genetic engineering is the main focus of our concern because of the manner in which it impinges on organisms and their ecological relationships. 

The application of genetic engineering technology alters the DNA of a living organism in ways which are much more radical than what occurs due to the generally incremental, slow processes of natural evolution.  It does this in a way that is inevitably disruptive to some degree as a result of the essentially random insertion of transgenic (or cisgenic) DNA into the functional DNA of a host organism.  It may cause noticeable changes in the appearance of the organism and/or differences in the biochemistry and physiology of the organism.  These changes are unpredictable and may result in the production of new proteins, with potential toxic effects, within the transgenic organism.  

Many scientists are concerned about releasing genetically engineered organisms into the environment.  That genetic engineering is of community significance for councils to address was amply determined in a 2009 Colmar Brunton Poll.[2]  New Zealand companies are concerned.  Fonterra has said there is insufficient support in this country or from overseas customers to warrant local production of food from genetically engineered sources, and food producers Heinz Watties, Goodman Fielder and others have GE free policies.[ii] 

When genetically engineered organisms are released into the environment their transgenes can be transferred to other organisms so that the engineered characteristics spread through the eco-system.  Farmers in the US face having to eradicate weed species that have developed herbicide-resistant traits, including resistance to multiple herbicides.  These so-named ‘superweeds’ can grow aggressively and out-compete transgenic crops.  Over-application of herbicides and pesticides to transgenic crops has increased substantially the volume of agricultural chemicals used and this has aided in the development of weeds resistant to those chemicals.

In December 2012, the Foundation for Arable Research confirmed New Zealand’s first case of glyphosate-resistant ryegrass in a Marlborough vineyard and blamed frequent applications of that herbicide as the cause.[iii]  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the widely applied herbicide RoundUp.  Introducing transgenic ryegrass, which is in development, into this country’s pastures would potentially contaminate conventional ryegrasses and would jeopardise our substantial ryegrass seed export industry.[iv]  Resistant crops are seen as culpable in the emergence of herbicide-resistant weed species. 

Trevor James of AgResearch is reported as saying:  “There are 61 weeds all around the world resistant to glyphosate; there are six in Australia and it's a major problem with their cropping...”[v] Ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) is an acknowledged problematic weed in Australia and the first glyphosate-resistant weed was annual ryegrass which emerged in 1996.[vi] 

Each year weeds cost Australia over AUD$4 billion in control and lost production.[vii]  Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) costs the Australian grain industry AUD$140 million/p.a. for weed control and in lost production.[viii]  Britain’s advisory committee on releases to the environment (ACRE) identified wild radish, wild turnip, hoary mustard, brown mustard and wild cabbage as species from which hybrids could be formed with the transgenic canola/rapeseed varieties.  A Swedish study found transgenic canola seed could remain viable in the wild even 10 years after release.[ix]  In one field trial plot, researchers found 46% of seeds in a wild turnip plant contaminated with transgenic DNA.[x]  Wild radish, wild turnip and wild cabbage grow in New Zealand. 

Dr Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Centre for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, US, states:  the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied.  If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%.[xi]  

Transgenic crops are being developed to resist 2,4-D (an ingredient in Agent Orange), dicamba (a herbicide in the 2,4-D family), HPPD-inhibiting herbicides, and glyphosate and AL (GAT).[xii]

Food Standards ANZ has recently approved for use in food products a transgenic soy resistant to 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), glufosinate ammonium, and glyphosate.  Such transgenic crops potentially also endanger the human environment.  In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a statement ‘Genetically Modified Foods’ that included:  “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health and are without benefit.”[xiii] 

Industry claim transgenic crops benefit farmers.  Hear from US farmers who planted transgenic crops on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEX654gN3c4&feature=plcp (24 minutes) and an interview with Nnimmo Bassey, head of Friends of the Earth International speaking of farmers in India, south-east Asia, Africa and Latin America (8.18 minutes),

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/19/gm-crops-insecurity-superweeds-pesticides.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASSTD) is a large, comprehensive United Nations study.  It supports the thesis that transgenic crops could threaten food security.[xiv]

Wilding pines are aggressive, invasive colonisers and a threat to biodiversity, farm productivity and landscape values.[xv]  Ninety percent of our plantation forests are in pinus radiata[xvi] which generate wilding pines to flourish from coastal areas to high altitudes.  Pines seed efficiently and widely.  These pines compete with native trees and plants and pine needles discourage regeneration of native forest floor species.  Wilding pines create economic and environmental consequences for Regional Councils and Councils will be aware of the heavy costs incurred in removing them.  The monitory sources used for control deplete the public purse.

Of concern to PSGR was the approval[3] for the New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited, trading as Scion, to plant pinus radiata with a number of engineered traits.  The premise was that the trees would largely be engineered using what is commonly termed ‘terminator’ technology, making the trees sterile, i.e. not able to flower or replicate.  Transgenic traits are likely to be unstable and the variants of terminator technology offer no absolute guarantee of sterility.  The traits can break down and the trees revert to flowering.  Genes can spread horizontally in soil bacteria, fungi and other organisms in the extensive root system of forest trees.  There could be long-term impacts on soil biota and fertility.  Trees that do not flower and fruit cannot provide food for the organisms that feed on pollen, nectar, seed and fruit; thus, essential pollinating insects may not be available, especially for beekeepers, horticulturalists and crop growers. 

Herbicide-resistant pines could lead to wilding pine super weeds.  Worrying is the fact that conventional pinus radiata seeds have been found viable “at least up to twenty-four years”[xvii] and distance is no guarantee of safety from contamination.  Sing el al (1993) found pollen from pine trees had travelled over 600 kms.  It would need a failure rate of only a part of a percent for transgenes in pollen to contaminate other trees, potentially at great distances, in ways that could not easily be monitored.

The risks are environmental and economic.  Terminator technology has attracted a voluntary moratorium from many countries because of the risks involved.  The effect on New Zealand’s reputation overseas and exports could be damaging. 

Summary

With the tools contained in the latest release from the ICWP, Councils have the means to endorse their plans with a precautionary statement, or something more stringent, to avoid the undesirable effects of transgenic organisms.

We repeat our quote from the ICWP findings:  “... there are significant risks to local government and their communities from outdoor use of GMOs, including environmental, economic and socio-cultural risks” and “the potential adverse effects of releasing GMOs into the environment could be significant – including possible major and long term harm.  Moreover, these effects could be irreversible.”i 

For accurate information and to guide your decision making and plan development, we recommend the comprehensive analysis[4] of the myths and truths relating to genetically engineered organisms and peer-reviewed studies, the executive summary of which follows this letter.  This document supports PSGR's recommendation.

PSGR urges Council to apply strong precautionary policies on genetically engineered organisms for its Unitary Plan to meet its duty of care to ratepayers and to protect the environment under its jurisdiction. 

We look forward to your response

 

The Trustees of PSGR

 

 

GMO Myths and Truths

http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf,

 

An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops,Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson, John Fagan; June 2012, Earth Open Source http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/58

Executive Summary:  Genetically modified (GM) crops are promoted on the basis of a range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters. They say that GM crops:

·         Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops

·         Are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops

·         Are strictly regulated for safety

·         Increase crop yields

·         Reduce pesticide use

·         Benefit farmers and make their lives easier

·         Bring economic benefits

·         Benefit the environment

·         Can help solve problems caused by climate change

·         Reduce energy use

·         Will help feed the world.

However, a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence shows that these claims are not true.  On the contrary, evidence presented in this report indicates that GM crops:

·         Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops

·         Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts

·         Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety

·         Do not increase yield potential

·         Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it

·         Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds”, compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops

·         Have mixed economic effects

·         Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity

·         Do not offer effective solutions to climate change

·         Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops

·         Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.

Based on the evidence presented in this report, there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist.  Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.  See the full document on http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf.    

 

See also PSGR Frequently Asked Questions on Genetic Engineering www.psgr.org.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=54&Itemid=25.

 



[i] ‘Managing Risks Associated with the Outdoor Use of Genetically Modified Organisms Proposed Plan Change, Section 32 Report, and Legal Opinion’ cover note by Dr Kerry Grundy, Convener of the Inter-council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options.  Documents on www.wdc.govt.nz.

[ii]The Greenpeace GE Free Food Guide is to be updated in 2013 http://www.gefreefood.org.nz/.

[iii] www.far.org.nz/index.php/media/entry/glyphosate-resistance-confirmed-in-new-zealand

[vi] Sydney Morning Herald, 8 May 2012.

[ix] ‘Long-term persistence of GM oilseed rape in the seedbank’, D’Hertefeldt T et al, Biol Lett. 23 June 2008; 4(3): 314–317. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610060/.

[xv] ‘Wilding conifers - New Zealand history and research background’, a presentation by Nick Ledgard at the "Managing wilding conifers in New Zealand - present and future" workshop (2003).

[xvi] ‘Situation and outlook for New Zealand agriculture and forestry’, NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 2007. 

[xvii] ‘The Fire Pines’, Richard Warren and Alfred J Fordham, http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1040.pdf

 

Ends