$400,000 worth of genetically modified trees destroyed — Rotorua, New Zealand
Nearly 400 genetically modified pine trees have been destroyed by intruders who caused $400,000 worth of damage after wreaking havoc in a Rotorua field trial.
The one-hectare trial by Crown Research Institute Scion has been set back by a year after the Easter weekend raid.
The incident, in which the intruders dug under an electrified and monitored double fence to cut off at ground level or rip out the 375 radiata pines, had been widely condemned.
The trees were planted last year to test herbicide resistance and to study reproductive development.
Most were less than a metre high and were part of two experiments set to run for two to three years.
Scion Chief Executive Dr Warren Parker described the setback as a blatant act of vandalism designed to end the company’s genetic modification research programme.
The trees would be replanted, however, despite “our research opponents being determined to stop us”.
The damaged fences have been repaired and police have inspected the site.
Barry Scott, a former ERMA board member and professor of molecular genetics at Massey University, described the attack as “abhorrent”.
“Vandalism of this kind is senseless, destroys years of work done by researchers, and fails to recognise that New Zealand has one of the tightest regulatory environments on GM research in the world, and that this particular experiment was being carried out under strict conditions imposed by ERMA to protect the environment.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the damage.
GE Free NZ resident Claire Bleakley told Radio New Zealand she had “absolutely no idea at all” who was responsible.
She doubted the person was connected to the organisation.
“This is really the responsibility of a person who is obviously so disfranchised by the ERMA process and their anger at having GE trees regardless of the 95% submissions against it to ERMA.”