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Most submissions on GE Bill say don't release GE

Most submissions on GE Bill say don't release GE

The overwhelming majority of submissions on the latest GE bill oppose releasing GE into the environment, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

Submitters strongly urging caution on GE include the new-style, innovative, value-added food exporters the Government is proudly promoting and describing as the way of the future for the New Zealand economy.

The Education and Science select committee has finished hearing submissions on the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill, which will provide for the conditional release of genetically engineered organisms, if and when the moratorium lifts.

Ms Fitzsimons said that, among food producers, the submissions showed an interesting pattern which the Government would do well to heed.

"Supporting release of GE into the food system are the big agriculture lobby groups - including Fonterra, Meat NZ, the Poultry Industry Association and the Arable Food Industry Council; which produce the commodity products New Zealand has traditionally grown.

"However, even they are being cautious - both Fonterra (representing the dairy industry) and the meat industry have policies of not selling GE products at this stage.

"Opposing GE release is a much larger range of food companies producing products with much higher value per kilo. They include the well-established Zespri International (kiwifruit), Enza Foods (apples), the deer industry, the National Beekeepers Association and Heinz Wattie's.

"They also include the smaller, fast-growing, innovative, value-added niche marketing companies - like Lisa's Healthy Foods (previously Lisa's Hummus); the NZ Free Range Egg and Poultry Co, Celtic Organic Winery, NZ Vitalife, and others.

"The organic industry is of course also strongly opposed to GE release. Joining them are food processors like Sanitarium Health Food Company and Independent Foods. The select committee was told over and over again that releasing GE food or feed crops would damage our markets for these innovative products," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"It is curious that this Labour Government is backing the old-style commodity producers, by backing GE release to the hilt, rather than backing producers that seem a much better fit with the Government's innovation and value-added strategy. It is also curious the Government is ignoring local government, which has repeatedly asked for a voice in the decision about whether GE crops will be released in their districts."

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