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Papers Show Industry Too Close To GE Corn Story

15 July 2002

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today she was concerned that papers released by the Government over the weekend showed industry were involved in shaping the way the GE corn story was presented to the public.

An email from Novartis PR to Government officials on 6th December said "We have taken the liberty of drafting an updated statement that diverts the debate from the sweet corn issue to a more generic issue of recognising the need to develop a practical process."

"In the end, the Minister for the Environment presented the story in her press release on 19th December in exactly the way that industry PR recommended," said Ms Fitzsimons.

Another email from MFE to ERMA, the Minister's office and MAF revealed that industry was shown the draft release before it went out and seemed "comfortable" with it, although Novartis "did ask if we need to mention sweet corn". MFE advice was that "we may as well be upfront given the number of people out there who know about it."

"It is completely inappropriate that industry PR was party to the decisions about what the public should be told," said Ms Fitzsimons. "Those decisions should always be made independently by Government."

Ms Fitzsimons said the papers showed widespread confusion amongst Government officials about whether a tolerance level for GE seed contamination was in place. Some were still confused in June 2002.

"There is a very clear lesson that can be drawn from this whole disaster. Our regulatory system could not cope. I do not have faith that it will be able to cope if the moratorium on commercial releases is lifted next October."

Ends

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