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Trade officials and diplomats in pro-GE campaign

New Zealand trade officials and diplomats are taking part in a pro-GE campaign aimed at influencing the outcome of the Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering, Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

"It's disgraceful that officials and diplomats who are employed to represent the interests of the public are spending their work hours spreading pro-GE propaganda," Ms Fitzsimons said. "Our taxes pay these people - and that just rubs salt into the wound."

The New Zealand consulate in Canada has sent out a questionnaire from the pro-GE lobby group NZ Lifesciences Network to Canadian scientists, with an accompanying letter from the consulate. The questionnaire asks about tactics, strategies and political connections of opponents of genetic engineering, and also about strategies used by "Life Sciences advocates" to gain public, political and media acceptance of genetic engineering. An accompanying booklet from Tradenz sets out background information on the New Zealand biotech industry.

Ms Fitzsimons said the Lifesciences Network, a network of New Zealand biotech research organisations including universities, was winding up for a classic Timberlands-style public relations campaign.

"One of their questions asks about the public perception of the term "life sciences", and whether scientists are aware of a more "acceptable terminology". Genetic engineering and even biotechnology are now seen as dirty words to be avoided at all costs by pro-GE groups," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"They may use sanitised words, but it's still the same technology and consumers still have the same ethical and safety concerns about it."

Ms Fitzsimons said the Lifesciences Network had showed a contempt for the laws of the country this week, when they derided the recall of a genetically engineered cholera vaccine which had been illegally released without Environmental Risk Management Authority approval.

In a press release, the Lifesciences Network said the recall "doesn't make sense" and was to done to "satisfy the political needs of the anti-GMO lobby".

"Which part of illegal doesn't make sense to them?" asked Ms Fitzsimons. "This product has been released illegally, and so the Government had no choice but to withdraw it from use."

Ms Fitzsimons said this was the start of an orchestrated campaign by pro-GE lobby groups to influence the outcome of the Royal Commission. "I encourage all New Zealanders to make their own views heard, so that the outcome reflects the true views of our society."

Ms Fitzsimons said she was also very disappointed that Tradenz, a board intended to foster the best trade outcomes for New Zealand, was continuing to openly back genetic engineering before the Royal Commission had taken place.

Papers available on request

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP: or 025 586 068 or 07 868 6641 (this evening) Gina Dempster, press secretary: 04 470 6723 or 021 1265 289

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