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GE Threat To Booming Organics Industry

Genetic engineering is a serious threat to New Zealand's booming organics industry, Green Party Agriculture Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street said today.

Figures just out show New Zealand's organic exports generated more than $60 million for the year to June 2000 - up 77 per cent on last year's figure of $34.08 million. The value was just $10 million four years ago.

Today the Sunday Star Times (business section front page) quoted Glenn Cunningham, director for organics exporter Fresco, as saying the fact this country was still free of genetically modified crops made it "easy to market New Zealand organics".

Mr Ewen-Street said this image was a shaky one.

"While genetically engineered crops aren't grown commercially, GE field trials around New Zealand pose a genuine danger to our clean and green image, and to non-GE crops," he said. "There is also pressure on New Zealand farmers from multi-national GE companies to start growing transgenic crops commercially."

Last year, Environmental Risk Management Authority chief executive Bas Walker announced that netting over a GE canola trial in Canterbury had developed holes, which he said posed an escape risk. Officials are still monitoring the site to see if any pollen or seed escaped.

British scientists have discovered hybrid "superweeds" after the spread of pollen from genetically engineered English canola crops to wild turnip plants. Some of these wild plants had inherited their GE parents' herbicide-resistant genes and were able to breed.

Mr Ewen-Street said it was "madness" that New Zealand was threatening its own image in this way.

"If the rest of the export sector could match even a fraction of the performance of organic exports the economy would be booming. While I am delighted with the latest figures, we need to keep in mind that our own Crown Research Institutes are at present lobbying the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, suggesting New Zealand embraces the GE technology," he said.

"Overseas consumers are rejecting genetically engineered foods and switching to the safest and cleanest food they can find. At a time when food safety scares are all too common, the demand for chemical-free, GE-free food is almost impossible to meet."

Ian Ewen-Street MP 025 902 527, 03 5798003 Paul Bensemann, Press Secretary 021 214 2665


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