Anti-GE backers file appeal against trials

Anti-GE (genetic engineering) campaigners have lodged an appeal against the latest approval of AgResearch's genetic modification trials at Ruakura, saying it is too broad.

In a document filed at the High Court in Wellington last month, GE Free NZ In Food and Environment Incorporated has issued a notice of appeal against the April decision of the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) approving the continuation of genetic modification of bacterial and mammalian cells, mice, goats, sheep and cattle at Ruakura.

Wellington-based lawyer Tom Bennion, acting on behalf of GE Free NZ, said the appeal was motivated by the organisation's belief the approval had been too broad, and allowed AgResearch to modify a lengthy list of organisms and cells.

That amounted to what Mr Bennion would argue was an "error of law" and process under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act of 1996.

"What modifications they (AgResearch) want to undertake with this application are pretty unclear," Mr Bennion said.

"The act intends that submitters – including scientists – are able to make submissions based on a sensible proposal."

He believed it was too difficult for submitters to the approval process to know exactly what they were submitting on, such was the breadth and lack of clarity of AgResearch's application.

"There has got to be some knowledge of what those modifications are going to be, so they can add value (to the process)."

According to GE Free NZ's experts, the lengthy list of material AgResearch could potentially modify "is just about anything you want it to be", Mr Bennion said. "We actually need to know what they're doing."

The application approved in April was similar to an existing GE work application GE Free NZ was also appealing, he said.

ERMA said AgResearch would be able to continue with its GE work at Ruakura, provided it continued to do so within the defined controls, "unless an injunction is obtained through the courts".

AgResearch declined to comment on the appeal, citing its "policy of not discussing any issue currently before the court".

Mr Bennion said a chambers conference was scheduled for next week, potentially leading to a specific court date for a hearing of the appeal.

Waikato Times