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GM Opponents Attempt To Manipulate School Children

A pamphlet issued by an organisation which may be linked to the Green Party is nothing but a cynical attempt to manipulate the views of school children on the issues surrounding the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, the Chairman of the New Zealand Life Sciences Network (Inc), Dr William Rolleston, said today.

“The pamphlet, issued by an organisation calling itself G.E.C.K.O. (Genetic Engineering Concerning Kid’s Opinions), is a relatively unsophisticated attempt to persuade school children to make submissions to the Royal Commission, opposing GMOs. It’s clear the acronym has been deliberately designed to develop an emotional link with children.

“The pamphlet tries to give the appearance of being balanced. However, it skews the presentation by introducing value-laden and non-factual judgements as arguments against GMOs like
 ‘If my dog eats a bug that’s eaten a GE plant, will my dog die?’, and
 ‘ Even after GE plants are pulled out of the ground, the soil is still contaminated’, and
 ‘GE medicine would be good, but only rich people would be able to afford it’, and
 ‘Having GE vitamins put into foods would be good, but would I get sick if I ate too much vitamin-enhanced food?’
 ‘I’m very allergic to nuts. Will I die if I eat GE food with nut genes in it?’

“This is just the sort of misinformation which Swiss ecologist, Professor Klaus Ammann, warned us all against during his evidence last week.

“To believe it is appropriate to drag children into this debate is reprehensible, we wonder what benefit GM opponents hope to gain.

“The author is closely linked to the Green Party election candidate for Rongotai at the last election, Rich Wernham. That link then raises the question about whether this is a Green Party initiative.

“G.E.C.K.O. also refers to a number of anti-GM organisations, which have strong Green Party links, as sources for further information. There is no attempt to balance the list with references to information available from independent organisations. G.E.C.K.O. gives no indication in the pamphlet who is behind it.

The Green Party claims credit for the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which is providing a forum for rational debate of these complex issues. The Green Party should act responsibly and join us in publicly condemning this sort of blatant manipulation which does nothing to inform our children in a responsible way.

“I would hope schools, seeing this information arrive, would help children to seek out information from other sources, such as the Royal Society, Crown Research Institutes, universities etc. It is important children are not used as pawns in this debate,” concluded Dr Rolleston.

NOTE: A fax copy of the G.E.C.K.O. pamphlet is available from the Executive Director of the New Zealand Life Sciences Network (Inc).

For further information, contact:

Dr William Rolleston Francis Wevers
Interim Chairman Executive Director

Phone 03 612 6688 Phone 04 916 0100
Mobile 025 2460634 Mobile 021 916010

Date: Tuesday, 7 November 2000

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