in New Zealand

Stop GE trees in Aotearoa New Zealand!

2015-08-03-131602_1129x1022_scrotNew Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries is currently carrying out a consultation exercise on a National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF). GE Free New Zealand is concerned that the NES-PF would loosen restriction on genetically engineered trees.

The Ministry for Primary Industries website about the NES-PF explains that,

If implemented, an NES-PF would replace councils’ existing district and regional plan rules for managing plantation forestry. It would provide a nationally consistent approach that is responsive to local environments.

Currently New Zealand’s Northland councils are involved in a court battle to keep GMOs out of their districts. If the NES-PF were passed, councils would lose their right to ban GMOs. The proposed NES-PF consultation document includes the following text on GE trees;

Genetically modified organisms are regulated under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. To avoid duplication, the proposed NES-PF includes a provision permitting afforestation using genetically modified tree stock where it has been approved by the Environmental Protection Authority under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.

Claire Bleakley, GE Free New Zealand president, argues that the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act is insufficient, because it requires little accountability if the release of GE trees were to cause harm.

GE Free New Zealand has set up a petition opposing GE trees in New Zealand (click on the picture to go to the website and to sign on to the petition):

Against GE Trees in New Zealand

New Zealand’s Green Party also opposes the NES-PF. On its website, the Green Party states:

National is proposing to take away the rights local communities and iwi have to protect their environment from destructive forestry practices that degrade indigenous habitats, pollute our rivers, hurt our fisheries, and risk the release of GE trees.

National’s proposed new standards for plantation forestry will help big, foreign-owned forestry companies make a quick buck at the expense of our environment and the local communities they work in.

GE Free New Zealand recently circulated the following message about the threat of GE trees and the petition to keep them out of New Zealand:

Kia ora from Aotearoa, New Zealand

Following in the footsteps of the Brazilian government who earlier this year approved the release of GMO Eucalyptus trees against the wishes of the people of Brazil, the government of New Zealand is set to make a similar move by removing local authority over the release of GE Trees and handing that authority to a central government department that will be managed by a GE advocate.

At a global level, we are mindful that acceptance of the release of GE Trees in New Zealand is said to be a key strategic goal for the GE Tree industry.

At home, this is an attack on our proud history of local democracy as much as it is an attack on New Zealand’s native biodiversity.

New Zealand became Nuclear Free through local councils saying NO to nuclear technology and GE Free New Zealand has successfully beaten back attempts to release GE organisms by defeating the companies regionally and in the courts. The government is set to remove this essential layer of precautionary based protection from us on behalf of the corporate interests that are lobbying them.

Please join in supporting and joining the efforts of GE Free New Zealand, The New Zealand Green Party, The New Zealand Labour Party, our local communities, and globally; environmental, indigenous and social justice networks and organisations representing hundreds of millions of people in rejecting moves to allow the unnecessary release of GE Trees.

We ask you to support us by endorsing the following statement, by adding the name of your organization to the list of signatories by Friday the 7th of August.


    I demand that a moratorium is placed on any further development, field trialling or release of GE trees in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    The full extent of their social and ecological risks have not been assessed. All plantings of GE trees, whether field trials or plantations, are currently prohibited and should remain so.

    I support and join the efforts of all people, organizations and social movements globally in rejecting all GE trees outright and declaring that GE trees will only worsen, not help address, the multiple crises we face.

    Signed; [Your Organisation]

Your organisation can Sign:On here at


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  1. Interesting that no-one complained when NZ forestry established plantations of non-indigenous radiata pine and eucalyptus which are non-hosts of most NZ indigenous fauna and flora and toxic to many of them, creating biodiversity deserts in areas that used to be native forests. If people are really concerned about conservation and not just the pseudo-socio-political hype that accompanies GMOs – the target should be to establish plantations using native species and not invasive aliens.

  2. @Jeremy – Thanks for this comment. I agree with you that monoculture industrial tree plantations are biodiversity deserts and have serious social and environmental impacts. The problem with GE trees is that they do nothing to address these impacts, and instead intensify these impacts (faster growing trees sucking more water out of the soil, for example).

    It’s not quite true to say that “non-one complained” about the impacts of industrial tree plantations in New Zealand. Here’s a 1994 report by Grant Rosoman from Greenpeace:

    The Plantation Effect: An Ecoforestry Review of the Environmental Effects of Exotic Monoculture Tree Plantations in Aotearoa/New Zealand

  3. Chris : Thanks for your comments and the report which I had not seen.
    I have no objection to GM trees in principle but they should be part of a fully integrated progamme for enhancing biodiversity and not perpetuate the current mono-culture systems.
    Best wishes


  4. @Jeremy – I think we agree more than we disagree. I oppose GE trees precisely because they are a perpetuation of the current monoculture system.

    In 2004, I wrote a report on GE Trees for the World Rainforest Movement and Friends of the Earth International. One section looked at the myths the industry puts forward to promote GE trees:

    Unravelling the lies: Why GM trees don’t make sense

    1. Faster growing GM trees will not help take pressure off native forests
    2. GM trees cannot help reverse climate change
    3. Genetically modifying trees for reduced lignin is no solution to pulp mill pollution
    4. Insect-resistant GM trees will not lead to reduced pesticide use
    5. Herbicide-tolerant GM trees will not lead to reduced herbicide use
    6. GM trees will not clean up not clean up pollution
    7. Risks of genetic pollution
    8. GM elm trees are no solution to Dutch elm disease
    9. Do GM trees make economic sense?
    10. Do scientists know what they are doing? And should we trust them?

  5. Our farming family (who has Forest Stewardship Council certified forestry blocks at a number of properties in New Zealand) strongly supports our local councils retaining their existing valuable precautionary and prohibitive GE policies in local plans. We also note that GE trees are prohibited by both international certification bodies (Forest Stewardship Council- FSC- and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification- PEFC) who certify genuinely sustainable forests, due to the serious ecological risks of GE trees. Local councils (around NZ) excellent work to create a much needed additional tier of local protection against the risks of outdoor use of GMOs is necessary because the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act has a number of serious deficiencies as regards outdoor use of GMOs. Local Government NZ, all councils from south Auckland to Cape Reinga, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Hastings District Council and a number of other councils (and Iwi authorities) have identified serious deficiencies in the HSNO Act, including inadequate liability requirements and no mandatory requirement for the “Environmental Protection Agency” in NZ to take a precautionary approach to outdoor use of GMOs. NO to nasty GE trees, some are keen to genetically engineer trees to be herbicide resistant to the proprietary herbicides of overseas multinationals like Bayer and Syngenta. NO to GMOs, YES to GE FREE NZ, naturally!