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GE Horror Trees Beaten by People Power

The last government tried to add a last minute clause 6.4 into the new National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry, to try and allow GE trees to be planted anywhere in Aotearoa. Most tree croppers and foresters were appalled. This flew in the face of years of grower groups and local councils fighting against the deadly danger of GE trees in New Zealand. Our horticultural GE free status has been hard won. It was seriously threatened by this attempt to override local democracy.

Why "deadly"? Well, GE engineered pines deliberately target pest insects, so trees are bred to resist ALL feeding by insects. Gene pollution "leaks" to normal trees via cross pollination, so the anti-insect traits are invasive, which could lead to the trees themselves killing all insects in a plantation forest, by poisoning or starvation. GE pollen has been shown in the Phillipines to be allergenic to humans. It blows for thousands of kilometres, even ending up in the deep ocean. But the deadliest threat is that herbicide resistant genes blowing in the wind will contaminate healthy tree pollen. The natural trees' offspring can become trans-genic mutants, poisoning natural ecosystems which support life.

Why do governments and corporations keep ignoring advice from those of us growing and exporting clean green food? Why is Scion trying to push a "new product" for profit when it claims to care about NZ's biological heritage and indigenous values? Why does the government and its toothless slave the so-called EPA keep trying to approve GE against widespread popular opposition? Obviously to make new types of profit, and commercially monopolise the seed supply for the future. GE trees would be the big bully on the block, forcing foresters and food growers to lose their organic or GE free status by pollution and legal pressures.

stop genetically engineered trees logo
The Stop GE Trees Campaign includes the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, and many international bodies. In New Zealand Northland, Auckland and Hawkes Bay district councils and grower groups including the Sustainability Council of NZ, and both FSC and PEFC (international certification bodies for truly sustainable forestry) prohibit the use of GE trees, due to the serious ecological risks, their commitment to the precautionary principle, and market aversion to GE trees.

"GE free" is supported by most tree croppers and foresters and for good reasons. Monitoring of trials here has been useless. GE tree trials have broken the safety restraints placed on them. Above all we have the huge international trading advantage of a well known GE free status, envied and admired in the Farmers Markets of Europe and America. Ironically most of the traits being researched already exist in well known plantation trees, which are already safely planted and harvested here in New Zealand. There is a big push for sterility to combat the spread of wildling trees in the High Country. Sadly, pesticide resistant trees would make this problem far worse.

Foresters in the know already plant Leyland Cypress, a natural hybrid which does not set viable seed, grows faster than macrocarpa, with similar excellent wood properties, and is already being produced in massive numbers to feed the demand in the South Island for non-invasive, hardy, healthy non-pine plantation forestry trees. Not only is there no need to find a sterile pine tree, but pines themselves will eventually become an outdated plantation species, as they need toxic chemical treatment against rot and insects, which Cypresses do not need. Furthermore, sterility, if gene leakage transfers it to natural forests, risks rendering all our native forests sterile, in which case they would all die off and not be replaced by young trees.

Throughout New Zealand, public pressure, export and food businesses and forest owners, local government submissions and professional foresters' reactions prove that there is still major public opposition to ANY release of GE trees. If anything is really our "modern nuclear-free moment", it is our GE free status, highly respected world wide. So far, astute lobbying by foresters in the know, grassroots action groups, and the Maori Party, have saved us from this horror. But we need to remain vigilantly opposed to GE trees, which would be a danger not only to our own human health but to our beloved native forests, too.

11 year old Leyland cypress tree - the answer has already been found, people!

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