Monday, April 22, 2024

‘New’ organisms residency edges closer

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A tomato plant virus is among seven organisms in line for deregulation, having recently established themselves in Aotearoa New Zealand.
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A tomato plant virus is among seven organisms in line for deregulation, having recently established themselves in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) sought feedback on which new organisms should no longer hold regulatory status as “new” because they are effectively resident. 

EPA New Organisms group general manager Dr Chris Hill says the shortlisted candidates have been carefully screened and are no longer considered new as they have been effectively present for some time.

“This is not an assessment of whether or not we want them in the country, just a recognition of their presence here,” Hill said.

“This process is about making it easier for scientists wanting to conduct research on these organisms and removing the unnecessary financial barriers for businesses wanting to make use of them.”

One of those under the microscope is the pepino mosaic virus, which has been detected by commercial tomato growers in Auckland. 

Although it has no impact on food safety or human health, and tomatoes are safe to eat, the disease can affect production. 

Some operators want to investigate a technique used overseas, where tomato plants are immunised with a mild strain of the virus to guard against potentially more aggressive strains.

A pest beetle which defoliates eucalyptus trees and slows their growth significantly, delaying harvests, is also a candidate for deregulation. This would enable scientists to conduct field and laboratory research more freely.

An insect, three plants and a common bacterium round out the candidates drawn from a long list of 51 organisms gathered earlier this year during public consultation.

Hill says the EPA wants to know peoples’ views on deregulation of these seven organisms – or effectively giving them “residency”.

Submissions close at 5pm on December 17.

The EPA will collate the feedback and provide an assessment for the Environment Minister, before Cabinet makes a final decision on deregulation of any candidate organism.

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