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Environment Minister condemns Greens for claims

23 May 2002

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs has rejected Green Party claims of a widespread release of GE material next year and condemned these statements as a political stunt.

"It is absolute nonsense to suggest there'll be a wholesale release when the moratorium on applications for the release of genetically modified organisms ends in October 2003.

"New Zealand has the strictest rules on genetic modification of any country in the world. People wanting to release geneticially modified material into our environment will still have to go through a full approval process, including public submissions and hearings by the Environmental Risk Management Authority. That process cannot begin until the moratorium is lifted.

"There will be no release next year.

"Further, the government introduced the moratorium to investigate issues surrounding release and to decide whether to establish a new category of 'conditional release'.

"This category, recommended by the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, would provide for the controlled development of genetic modification. The Greens know this and are just grandstanding rather than awaiting the results of the government's consideration of this proposal.

"The Greens cannot have it both ways. A Green MP Ian Ewen-Street argued in Blenheim for a GE free Marlborough. Did that mean that Marlborough could be GE free while the rest of the country grew genetically modified crops? If so, that is a form of conditional release which the Greens agree is impossible.

"The Bill passed by Parliament yesterday further strengthens the controls on field trials. But it is vital we continue to research genetic modification and understand its risks and benefits. We are proceeding with caution but cannot turn our backs on science.

"I personally find it sad that having worked closely with the Greens on the development of this legislation they now choose to twist the truth for some hoped-for political gain.

"This is a difficult issue to understand. Rational consideration of the risks and opportunities is needed, not wild assertions that cannot be proven," Marian Hobbs said.

Ends

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