Environmental Protection Agency appoints GE advocate as new CEO

This week, the Environmental Protection Authority Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament. The Bill puts protection of the environment into the core purpose of the Environmental Protection Authority.

This month, Dr Allan Freeth, the former Chief Executive of Wrightson (1996-2004) was appointed the Chief Executive of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), and he will start in September.

Dr Freeth was described in an Asiabiotech article as an “outspoken advocate for Genetic Engineering (GE)” in 2002, when he lamented the effects of the two-year moratorium on commercial release of GE products that was due to be lifted. Wrightson had already spent $2.5 million in GE focused research and was reducing its spending.

While he worked at Wrightson, Dr Freeth was instrumental in pushing their adoption of GE grasses. This is from an article in Management magazine:

“ ‘I realised we were in danger of missing the boat, being under-prepared for the future of farming,’ [Dr Freeth] says. ‘On the plane back I wrote down the ‘Solutions’ concepts and went straight into management meeting, where it took me three hours to explain my thinking, and another three hours for them to question it rigorously. At the end of that time we agreed and I took it to the board.’

Soon after, Wrightsons’ under Freeth, bought into biotech company Genesis to work on the genetic potential of pasture plants, and GE trees.

Freeth has described Genesis as being “heavily involved in a series of collaborations to do with genetically modified trees that have less lignum in the wood – Arbogen (a Genesis partnership) has genetically modified tress growing in South America.”

Meanwhile, many in the community are concerned that the EPA may be about to approve genetically engineered trees ‘fit for the environment’. The proposed National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry says that should the EPA approve GE trees, it would be a permitted activity under the RMA, overriding local councils’ ability to protect against GE trees through their council plans.

So, the very agency that has the ability to decide on releasing GE trees into our environment, throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, is now headed by a man who has been an advocate of GE. We should remember that this is an organisation that should be protecting the environment, not exploiting it, and certainly not permitting the release of GE organisms into an environment so reliant on its clean, green brand.

We would not have expected an ardent advocate of GE to be heading the body charged with protecting the environment.

4 Comments Posted

  1. Dave –

    Almost all GE here is bad. We’ve been through this. Repeatedly.

    The bulk of GE crops are modified to enable heavier doses of herbicide, so we get to pay Monsanto twice, promote superweeds that can’t be killed short of burning the damned things, and for enough poisons to kill them, and then squander our position as “clean” , “green”, and “GE Free”. GE is something we can keep off our Islands because they ARE Islands. (Too late for West Island – sorry) and that distinction is going to be one of the few things that could support higher prices for our goods vs those of other countries.

    It is also important as an aid to keeping us independent of the corporations that own so many other countries. Not sufficient, but a useful tool.

  2. An alternative to fossil fuels may help with immediate emissions and slow the accumulating compounding damage to the air, oceans and equilibrium we depend on, but an alternative energy will not solve the main problem. Climate change is only one symptom of what is going wrong.

    The changes globally since “cheap” dirty energy in the form of coal and oil has been harvested include much more than climate. Harvesting other form of energy to replace fossil fuels is a step towards addressing emission rising but harvesting so called “clean” energy will not address the problems associated with using vast amounts of energy to prop up civilisations accumulating damage to our future.

    It is a finite globe.

    If denial of these changes is a defense then is there any point in laying out evidence here as it is in abundance in so many places.

    Myopia on GE is similarly an indicator of shallow understanding.

    Many settlers were also ignorant and released many pests both animal and plant as well as parasites. Once released and proliferated the problem becomes obvious but too late.

    Roundup is a toxic product and the proliferation of roundup ready GE plants in the US has seen a sharp rise in many diseases for humans in those area where roundup is now rampant in the environment including the ground water. Monsanto tells lies. Fools believe them.

    Commercial interest are concerned with the share holders return. They do not address responsibility for long term effects nor future damage . Why would you believe them.

    There are better ways to grow healthy food.

  3. so all GE is bad.

    damn. better go and dig up all the roses in the garden then, might need to organise a protest at the botanical gardens as well.

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