Tag Archives: new zealand

New Zealand court challenge to GM pine trees

Note: Notorious genetically engineered tree company ArborGen has operations in New Zealand and one of its joint owners, timber company Rubicon, is based there.

–The GJEP Team

By Geoff Cumming, Nov 2, 2013.  Source: New Zealand Herald

File photo / Alan Gibson File photo / Alan Gibson

A review of regulations covering genetically modified organisms hinges on a High Court case next week challenging approval for GM experiments on our most populous tree, pinus radiata.

The Environmental Protection Authority in April approved an application clearing the way for forest research institute Scion to alter the DNA of pine species using novel technology.

The EPA found that while the technique known as zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN) would produce genetically modified organisms as defined in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, it fitted a category of exemptions listed in the HSNO 1998 regulations.

But while allowing Scion to alter pinus radiata DNA in uncontained experiments, the EPA’s decision notes that the application “highlights the need for a review of the regulations as they are not keeping pace with a rapidly evolving field of science”.  Continue reading

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New Zealand: Government cracks down on environmental protesters

By Andrea Vance, March 31 2013. Source: Stuff.co.nz

Photo: Curso ER

Photo: Curso ER

The government is set to crack down on environmental protesters with fines of up to $100,000 or a year in jail for those who target offshore oil and gas operations.

Energy minister Simon Bridges today announced “stronger measures to protect offshore petroleum and minerals activity from unlawful interference”.

Individuals who intentionally damage or interfere with mining structures, like rigs, or vessels face a 12-month prison sentence or a $50,000 fine. Organisations face a penalty of up to $100,000.

Activists who break a 500-metre “no-go” zone around structures would be liable for a $10,000 fine.

Green party MP Gareth Hughes has branded the moves the “Petrobras law” – after the Brazilian oil giant – and said the government was criminalising protests in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, Oceans, Oil, Political Repression, Water

Victory! Brazilian oil giant Petrobras dumps New Zealand exploration permits

December 4, 2012.  Source: The New Zealand Herald

Photo: NZ Herald

Photo: NZ Herald

Brazilian oil company Petrobras has handed back exploration licences it holds for deep sea oil and gas prospects in the Raukumara Basin, off East Cape, in what appears a reaction to a string of difficulties which have seen the oil giant report losses for the first time in 13 years.

Prime Minister John Key told The New Zealand Herald that the decision was “not a reflection on the capacity to undertake deep-sea drilling or the prospect of activity of that area.”

The Raukumara Basin lies in very deep water off the east coast of the North Island and has barely been explored. Petrobras contracted a seismic survey ship to undertake initial surveys of parts of the basin early last year, where it encountered stiff opposition from a protest flotilla organised by Greenpeace and a local Maori tribe, Te Whanau a Apanui.

The New Zealand Navy was despatched to ensure the seismic survey could continue.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Hydrofracking, Oceans, Oil, Victory!, Water

GE trees: Crown Research Institute speaks with forked tongue in opposing GMO accountability

13 September, 2012. Source: GE Free NZ

GE Free NZ and Bay of Plenty ratepayers who were original submitters to a local Bay of Plenty plan have received notice of an appeal to the Environment Court, lodged by NZ Crown Research Institute Scion. This appeal contests the Environment Bay of Plenty Regional council’s (BOPRC) “Precautionary approach” to GMO release and field trialling in the region.

It is sheer hypocrisy for Scion to actively oppose council policy designed to protect the public interest. The legal action is in stark contrast to previous claims by Scion that the CRI supports a precautionary approach to GMOs.

Scion has received tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers to develop GM pine trees. Now it is using public money to oppose policies designed to keep it accountable to the communities that fund it.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs

New Zealand Grants a River the Rights of Personhood

by Stephen Messenger, September 8, 2012.  Source: Treehugger.com

Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

From the dawn of history, and in cultures throughout the world, humans have been prone to imbue Earth’s life-giving rivers with qualities of life itself — a fitting tribute, no doubt, to the wellsprings upon which our past (and present) civilizations so heavily rely. But while modern thought has come to regard these essential waterways more clinically over the centuries, that might all be changing once again.

Meet the Whanganui. You might call it a river, but in the eyes of the law, it has the standings of a person.

In a landmark case for the Rights of Nature, officials in New Zealand recently granted the Whanganui, the nation’s third-longest river, with legal personhood “in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests”. The decision follows a long court battle for the river’s personhood initiated by the Whanganui River iwi, an indigenous community with strong cultural ties to the waterway.

Under the settlement, the river is regarded as a protected entity, under an arrangement in which representatives from both the iwi and the national government will serve as legal custodians towards the Whanganui’s best interests.

“Today’s agreement which recognises the status of the river as Te Awa Tupua (an integrated, living whole) and the inextricable relationship of iwi with the river is a major step towards the resolution of the historical grievances of Whanganui iwi and is important nationally,” says New Zealand’s Minister for Treaty for Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson.

“Whanganui Iwi also recognise the value others place on the river and wanted to ensure that all stakeholders and the river community as a whole are actively engaged in developing the long-term future of the river and ensuring its wellbeing,” says Finlayson.

Although this is likely the first time a single river has been granted such a distinction under the law, chances are it’s not the last. In 2008, Ecuador passed similar ruling giving its forests, lakes, and waterways rights on par with humans in order to ensure their protection from harmful practices.

And, while it may seem an odd extension of rights, in many ways it harkens back to a time when mankind’s fate was more readily acknowledged as being intertwined with that of the rivers, lakes, and streams that sustained us — a time in which our purer instincts towards preserving nature needn’t be dictated by legislation.

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New Zealand: GE-Weeds Costing Farmers Dearly; Scion Wants to Replant Destroyed GE trees

Wednesday, 2 May 2012, 6:51 pm

From GE Free NZ

The emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds as a result of planting genetically engineered crops is costing farmers dearly and shows the benefits of New Zealand’s GE-free status.

A survey of farmers by BASF has revealed damage from ‘GE-weeds’ has cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The constant use of proprietary herbicides and insecticides has caused significant problems with weed resistance. GE crops now carry resistant genes to multiple herbicides (stacking). An increase of multiple herbicide tolerant crops is adding to escalating levels of toxic chemicals in food crops.

The Chemical Company, BASF surveyed farmers on the effects of GE weed resistance and found out that farmers were shocked at the negative impact of herbicide tolerant weeds on the economic performance and GE crop yields. Even one resistant weed type has a significant impact on yield reduction. BASF quoted University of Tennessee weed scientist Larry Steckel, saying

“…glyphosate-resistant weeds have had a big financial impact on Tennessee farmers – at least a $200 million effect on their bottom lines”.

New Zealand farmers are also learning from problems in the Australian market that is in its second year of commercial GE-canola cropping. This year there is a $57 price premium for GE-free Canola. To prop up the market Cargill is giving GE-canola farmers a 50% subsidy ($12 NZ) for their crop. This is the second year that GE canola has been unable to be sold on the international market and comes at the same time as court hearings begin for damage resulting from GE contamination affecting Western Australian farmer Steve Marsh.

“Even the major cosmetic companies have a policy to use GE Free ingredients so the canola cannot be sold into that market,” says Claire Bleakley, from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

Scion is considering the replanting of the GE-tree experiments for pines designed to resist herbicides and change reproductive function. The growing threat of herbicide resistant weeds shows that GE herbicide resistant technology is severely damaging farmer’s income and the environment.

“It’s time for a re-direction of science Innovation funding away from the replanting of herbicide resistant GE Trees at Scion. Targeting valuable research funding on GE organisms that will harm our environment and International clean, green, natural brand positioning must stop”.

Government policy pushing GE is not ‘picking winners’, but the opposite.

Research and Development investment money would be better spent looking at developing a commercial nursery of already available species of trees that would not have the risks to the environment, human, animal or insect populations that GE crops have brought overseas.


Farmers plan to update weed control management in 2012, Majority of farmers responding to BASF survey confirm glyphosate resistance http://www.basf.com/group/corporate/en/news-and-media-relations/news-releases/news-releases-usa/P-12-087

Natasha Bita, Monsanto props up weak GM crop price, 
The Australian, April 23 2012 



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Monitoring of GE: a reason for mistrust–More on the GE trees destroyed in NZ

Note: More on the destruction of the GE tree test plots in New Zealand and the potential rationale behind it.  This time from a member of New Zealand Parliament…
–The GJEP Team

by Steffan Browning, April 17, 2012

Steffan Browning

Published in Environment & Resource Management,

During the Easter break, the 375 genetically engineered (GE/GMO) pine trees at the Scion (Forestry Research Institute) field trial site were destroyed. The current experiments were for herbicide resistance and reproductive alterations, both with potential environmental and human health implications.

The destruction that occurred was direct action rather than a Scion activity, 2 fences were cut through and the ‘alive’ and electronically monitored fence was tunnelled under. Scion may have been able to discourage the direct action if its security was as good as it portrayed during its ERMA hearing, where Scion suggested surveillance cameras would be operating. It appears that Scion failed to even notice the damage for at least 3 days.

I visited the Rotorua GE tree field trial site last Friday, at least 6 days after the event, and saw one of the scientists inspecting the perimeter of the electrified enclosure fence line. Last time trees were cut down there in 2008, rabbits were coming and going under the heavy security fence, and Scion were not meeting the then approval conditions, of weekly fence inspections or correct management of prunings.

The level of non-compliance and general slackness in the past included potted GE pine cuttings in the open developing pollen cones. This gave those following the ERMA hearing process, no confidence that pollen wouldn’t happen again, especially when ERMA said that non-GE control trees within the site could produce pollen, and approval conditions would deal with the risk of GE pollen escape. That was exactly what they had said about the pollen risk from GE brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale) at that ERMA hearing only a few years before. Even while an appeal to the High Court was being heard against the GE brassica decision, the brassica scientist (a friend and colleague of the Scion GE crew) had her GE brassicas planted and flowering in the open, and I discovered a further open pollen event at her ‘secret’ site months later.

The public have been able to actively scrutinise Scion’s operations for compliance to the EPA (formerly ERMA) approval requirements.  Scion would prefer to operate in secret rather than have their activity monitored, and damage such as has occurred may encourage the EPA to allow a secret location.

As a Member of Parliament, I cannot condone illegal activity, but as a participant in the Scion GE tree and Plant & Food Research GE brassica hearings, I know why activists can feel the need to overstep the badly managed processes and take the law into their own hands. Legislation is a better way of correcting GE in the environment of New Zealand, and the sooner a government does it the better.

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Breaking News: GMO Tree Field Trial Destroyed in New Zealand

Note:  This breaking news from Aotearoa (New Zealand) was received by GJEP from sources around the world.  A colleague from Aotearoa writes, “…a bulletin on a break-in at the Scion site where people cut through the outer perimeter fence and dug under the inner security barrier to destroy the young [GM pine] saplings…GE Free NZ stopped short of condemning the action… I expect that the next few weeks will see raids on the homes and offices of known political activists over the Scion action. It will be sold to the public as an attempt to stop political insurrection. Wish us all luck. ”

Anne Petermann, GJEP’s Executive Director and Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign  stated this morning, “With the extreme security measures taken at the site, it is clear that Scion is aware of the powerful public opposition to genetically engineered trees.  People understand the inherent ecological, social and health risks associated with genetically engineered trees, and if the government won’t stop them, this action shows that people are prepared take matters into their own hands.”

Scion has been working in partnership with GE tree company ArborGen since 2006.  The GE eucalyptus trees being field tested by ArborGen in the US were genetically engineered in New Zealand.

For more on the dangers of genetically engineered trees and to read our new report on GE trees, go to: Analysis of the State of GE Trees and Advanced Bioenergy

–The GJEP Team

Cross-posted NZ Newswire unless noted.  More reports, video and sources at end of article.

For video on the incident, please click here (go to upper left side under headline)

375 genetically modified radiata pine trees at a research site have been destroyed by vandals. Photo / APNZ

A research trial of genetically modified trees destroyed by vandals in Rotorua could have informed the public debate on GM technologies, the Royal society of New Zealand says.

Police are investigating the attack over Easter weekend when 375 radiata pines at Scion’s forestry research institute were either cut or pulled out.

The vandals cut through fencing and tunnelled under another to reach the plants, causing about $400,000 of damage.

Royal Society of New Zealand, which promotes science, president Dr Garth Carnaby says the destruction means evidence that would have informed the public debate about GM technologies has been lost.

“Such vandalism is an expensive squandering of New Zealand’s limited research funding.”

Scion chief executive Dr Warren Parker estimated the vandals had caused about $400,000 of damage and put back research by a year.

“The field trial was approved under one of the strictest regulatory regimes in the world, and our team has fully complied with the containment controls. Despite this, our research opponents were determined to stop us and used criminal means to do so.”

The trials were looking at resistance to herbicides and reproductive development.

Massey University Molecular Genetics Professor Barry Scott said vandalism of this kind was “senseless” and destroyed years of work done by researchers.

“What is particularly abhorrent about this act is the thinking by those involved that their rights and actions should take precedent over the rights of other individuals.”

An anti-GE group is denying involvement in the destruction of genetically engineered pine trees at a research site in Rotorua. (msn nz)

GE-Free New Zealand president Claire Bleakley says she doesn’t know who was behind the attack and doubts it was anyone linked to her organisation.

Police believe the trees were destroyed sometime between Monday and Tuesday morning and want to hear from anyone with information.



Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Videos

Petrobras undeterred from New Zealand oil search by protests

Cross-posted from Reuters

WELLINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) – Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras said it will continue to explore for oil off the coast of New Zealand, despite environmental protests which forced it to halt seismic exploration.

Petrobras had just started testing off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, when environmentalists, including Greenpeace and some local indigenous Maori, disrupted its work on fears that deep sea oil production would threaten the country’s coastline and livelihood.

“This is a very singular episode for us and we’re here to manage with that,” Petrobras asset manager Marco Toledo told reporters on Tuesday.

He said some data had already been collected and the ship was on standby. “For a while, we are okay waiting.”

Petrobras has a five-year permit to explore a 12,333 square kilometre (4,762 square miles) block off the east coast of the North Island.

New Zealand police ordered protestors to stay at least 200 metres away from the exploration ship and sent officers on a small navy ship to keep the sides apart.

“We…want to ensure that the lawful rights to protest and for companies to go about their lawful business are understood and respected,” said Superintendent Barry Taylor.

Greenpeace said it wanted to stop deep sea oil drilling in New Zealand waters before it got established.

“The ocean and these coastlines are the New Zealand economy – they are also our way of life and they are a national treasure, too valuable to risk for oil money,” said Steve Abel, Greenpeace’s climate change campaigner.

Prime Minister John Key said police would decide how the rights of Petrobras and the protesters were balanced, but the government backed the hunt for oil.

“Quite clearly, we are a government that believes there are opportunities in the oil and gas exploration field,” he told reporters.

New Zealand is self sufficient in natural gas and provides just under half of its oil usage from domestic fields, all of which are in the Taranaki region on the west coast of the North Island. (Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Balazs Koranyi)


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