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87% of Kiwis see GE as environmental issue

20 April 2001

A Massey University study which found 87 percent of New Zealanders consider genetic modification of plants and animals to be a serious environmental issue showed the depth of feeling about GE, Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

However Ms Fitzsimons said she was surprised and encouraged to see that up to 40 percent of the respondents failed to fall for leading questions in the New Zealanders and the Environment survey, released yesterday, which assumed no health risks and very positive environmental benefits from introducing GE.

"The evidence from scientists at the Royal Commission into GE was that the much talked-about benefits of GE such as reducing the use of chemicals and biological control of possums are unproven and unlikely to eventuate. The benefits proposed in these questions were wildly speculative but they were presented as facts."

Ms Fitzsimons said the questions also made a critical assumption that human health and safety can be protected when GE organisms are introduced into the environment.

"The Royal Commission also heard there is no evidence for that assumption, in fact there is evidence to suggest the opposite. Previous health disasters such as thalidomide, DDT and dioxins should have shown us the dangers of assuming that new substances are safe before we have adequately tested them."

Ms Fitzsimons said that the survey's finding that a significant number of people believe the clean green image is a myth showed that many New Zealanders are environmentally savvy.

"These people recognise that we need to work much harder to ensure the clean green image we promote overseas is based in reality.

"What the survey didn't ask is if our clean green image is compatible with the release of GE organisms into our environment. If we go down that road, our clean green image won't be a myth, it will be history," she said.


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