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Treasury misleading Government on GE

Treasury misleading Government on GE

Treasury has given the Government a misleading interpretation of the report on the possible economic impacts of GE release in New Zealand, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

"Treasury's briefing to Cabinet on the BERL report - which examined the best- and worst-case economic scenarios resulting from the introduction or banning of GE organisms - is very biased. Key ministers and Cabinet itself, who are unlikely to have time to read the BERL report for themselves, have been misinformed about what it actually found," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"Treasury has simply ignored any results that showed that banning environmental release of GE organisms would have a more positive effect on GDP than GE release would, " Ms Fitzsimons said. She is commenting today after fully analysing the report; following the Government 'dumping' it on the eve of the Easter break.

The BERL report researchers developed a range of assumptions about increased productivity from New Zealand use of GE, increased productivity in our trading partners and competitors if they use it, and decreased prices and market access for our exports if consumers have a preference to buy GE-free products, Ms Fitzsimons said. These assumptions were based on surveys of consumer preferences and likely behaviour.

These assumptions were then run through two models of the New Zealand economy which are well tested and reliable. The result was a series of scenarios which predict the likely effects on the economy of releasing or not releasing various types of GE organisms, Ms Fitzsimons said. "Treasury's so-called 'summary' has replaced these tested assumptions with its own opinions. It has then reported only on the scenarios that show favourable effects from releasing GE and is silent on others," she said.

"A great disservice has been done to the people of New Zealand. Based on Treasury's misrepresentation, the Government has gone on to mislead the public into believing the report has given GE release the economic thumbs-up," Ms Fitzsimons said. "I am calling on Ministers and the public, especially farmers, to read the report for themselves."

An example of Treasury spin in its summary of the BERL report, is its statement that the report says the worst-case scenario result from individual uses of GMOs is a potential decrease in GDP of 1.3%. In fact, Ms Fitzsimons said, the relevant figure in the BERL report is a 2.5% decrease. Also, Treasury interpreted the report as saying the best-case scenario of GM-free scenarios is a decrease in GDP of 0.1%, when in fact the figure is an increase in GDP of 7.5%. "It is shocking that Treasury is misrepresenting the figures in such an obvious way," Ms Fitzsimons said.

The BERL report also states that both demand (for New Zealand products) and productivity are likely to be affected by allowing or banning GMOs. Thus, only model variations which include both factors should have been considered. However, Treasury instead used unrealistic scenarios when it wanted to make the effect of GMOs look more positive, and ignored them when they made allowing GMOs look bad, Ms Fitzsimons said.

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