GM site attack sparks fears of secret trials

By Tessa Johnstone

Vandalism on genetic modification trial sites may drive scientists to carry out research at secret venues, says GE Free New Zealand president Claire Bleakley, of Featherston.

Her comments come after genetically modified pine trees at a a field trial site in Rotorua, run by Crown research institute Scion, were attacked over Easter.

Intruders dug under and cut through electrified fences to pull or cut off trees, which were part of a research trial on herbicide resistance and reproductive development.

"Those types of acts will give them permission for these researchers to say 'let's do this at a secret site'," Mrs Bleakley said.

She said GE Free's concern was that if they did that, the regulatory processes which minimised the risk around the trials would not be adhered to or monitored.

Mrs Bleakley said they were surprised to hear about the Rotorua incident, and as an organisation they would never condone such an act.

But she also said regulatory authorities often disregarded community concerns and it may drive some opponents to carry out direct action.

"There are people out there who are so disenfranchised by the regulatory process and not having their voices heard."

Scion did not appear to have appropriate measures in place to make sure its security was not breached, she said.

Mrs Bleakley said it was important for people in Wairarapa, with an economy based on agriculture, to tell councils their thoughts on land management and genetic engineering.

She said if residents did not feed into the long-term planning process councils would not feel they had a mandate to speak on applications for trial sites.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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