GE Free New Zealand, a member of the Steering Committee of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees, continues to denounce research on genetically engineered (GE) trees by Scion, New Zealand’s Crown Research Institute specializing in forestry science. Despite some non-GE forestry science projects, Scion is helping to develop GE trees that are resistant to the herbicide ammonium glufosinate (Busta) and have had their reproductive traits altered.
“We need to protect native forests and to defend the rights of forest dependent communities and Indigenous Peoples against the uncontrollable and irreversible threats posed by the release of genetically engineered trees,” Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ, said in a recent press release. “GE trees threaten native forests, remove food for the insects and birds and advance the use toxic herbicides that kill ecosystems and damage the soil. Together, the effect will be to drive forests into becoming silent cemeteries and dead zones.”
And while Scion may have other non-GMO forestry projects in the works (including a collaboration with the Ngati Whare people developing native trees through vegetative cuttings), GE Free NZ and other activists are continuing to pressure Scion and the New Zealand government into abandoning ongoing research on GE Trees.
“This native tree project between Scion and Ngati Whare will help advance Aotearoa’s forests and preserve our beautiful native trees. It is an exciting and valuable use of New Zealand research money, but should not be used as a bribe to allow commercialization of Scion’s GE projects, or to justify forestry being allowed to destabilize complex natural ecosystems,” Bleakley said.
According to GE Free NZ, Scion has doggedly persisted in promoting and trialing GE trees that lack commercial viability due to the magnitude of long-term systemic risks they pose to the environment, human health, and soil ecosystems.
GE Free NZ also points out that “Minister Dr. (Nick) Smith is aggressively seeking to enact legislation that will remove Councils’ right to place precautionary policies on the growing of GM trees in their regions. Scion’s influence on inserting the pro-GE clauses to National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) that override Councils’ GE free zones shows that its interests directly conflict with the very environmental sustainability it should be promoting.”
In 2015 GE Free New Zealand gathered than 16,000 names on their petition rejecting the pro-GE tree legislation.