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Farmers rejecting genetic engineering

Green Party MP and organic farmer Ian Ewen-Street today said that ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff had been very poorly advised on farmers attitudes towards genetic engineering.

Mr Ewen-Street was responding to a media statement in which Mr Eckhoff said unless farmers made submissions to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Genetic Modification in favour of genetic engineering, farmers ran the risk of having the rural economy kneecapped.

"The reality is in fact quite the opposite," said Mr Ewen-Street. "A UMR Insight AFFCO survey in May found that 70 per cent of New Zealand farmers believed the future of New Zealand farming was with organic production and only 15 per cent thought the future was with genetic engineering."

Mr Ewen-Street said markets for genetically engineered foods were collapsing around the world as more and more consumers were prepared to pay high premiums to avoid the uncertainty of genetically engineered food.

"Statistics from the New Zealand Organic Products Exporters Group (OPEG) show that current organic export sales of $65 million are set to skyrocket to around $500 million per year by 2006," he said.

Mr Ewen-Street said it was ironic for the proponents of genetic engineering, such as Mr Eckhoff, to accuse the opponents of using "unscientific propaganda" when the scientific arguments for genetic engineering were very fragile and the economic benefits to New Zealand of staying GE-free were enormous.

"I have travelled up and down this country speaking to meetings of farmers who are very interested in the economic benefits of organics," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"Farmers are quick to realise the huge benefits of producing the cleanest, greenest and safest food in the world at a time when prices and demand for genetically engineered foods are very poor globally."

Mr Ewen-Street said he urged farmers to make submissions to the Royal Commission as genetically engineered crops and animals had the potential to destroy both the organic and the GE-free opportunities that New Zealand farmers currently enjoyed.

"Mr Eckhoff might believe that the future of farming lies with joining the rest of the world and manipulating our crops and animals with unproven and unwanted technology. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of farmers are rejecting genetic engineering and are continuing to enhance our clean green agricultural image."

Ends

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