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Govt says GE contamination OK: NZers disagree

Govt says GE contamination OK: NZers disagree

The Green Party is extremely concerned that Cabinet papers released today on GE co-existence confirm that the Government expects New Zealanders to accept a level of GE contamination of GE-free crops.

"It is an an abuse of human and consumer rights to expect consumers, and organic and conventional farmers and growers, to accept GE contamination. This is something they have repeatedly said they passionately do not want in field and food," Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said.

It was also greatly concerning that, under the GE regulatory system proposed by the Government, there would be huge costs to the taxpayer and to GE-free growers. "The conditions proposed will require costly monitoring, enforcement and testing. And you have to ask for what? There are no demonstrated benefits to New Zealanders," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"The Cabinet papers confirm the Royal Commission's finding that co-existence is only possible if some level of contamination of GE-free crops is allowed. The Government clearly proposes to put in place a tolerance level of contamination that growers and consumers don't want, but are going to be forced to accept.

"The Royal Commission pointed particularly to bees as being one of the most difficult areas to manage. The Government proposes that it will be up to bee keepers to find out from the Internet where GE crops are growing and to keep their bee hives six kilometres away," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"If they want their bees not to pick up GE pollen and bring it back to the hives and contaminate the honey and any crops they touch on the way, they will have to waste time finding out where GE crops are. This is completely unacceptable, as beekeepers will get absolutely no benefit from GE.

"The Royal Commission also identified Bt crops (crops engineered to produce the organic insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis in all their cells) as a difficult area to manage. Bt is very important, as it is one of the few insecticides available to organic farmers. They are concerned that insects will become resistant to Bt if plants, genetically engineered to contain Bt all the time, are introduced here; as opposed to the current practice where farmers spray Bt onto plants occasionally," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"The Government proposes that every farmer growing GE Bt crops has to plant non-Bt refuges next to them so that some individual insects which are not resistant to Bt will survive. It is assumed that when these individuals breed with Bt- resistant individuals the off-spring will also not be resistant to Bt. However, an important paper came out two years ago that said refuges made resistance to the insecticide worse - the fact is the resistant ones pass on their resistance.

"There's no reference in the Cabinet papers to that work, so on Bt resistance they haven't even read the latest research. It makes you wonder, what else haven't they read?"


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