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US GE contamination sounds warning for NZ

8 March 2004

US GE contamination sounds warning for NZ

Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons says today's news that two thirds of some US crops are now contaminated with genetically modified material has serious implications for New Zealand.

The US biotech industry has said it is "not surprised" by the Union of Concerned Scientists' report that testing by two independent labs had found that non-GE maize and canola seed in the US is "pervasively contaminated" by genetically engineered DNA. The report has created a stir among British MPs following a decision to allow limited growing of GE maize in the UK.

"This shows that the fundamental premise of the report of the Royal Commission into GE - that New Zealanders would have a choice because GE and non-GE crops could be kept separate - is based on ignorance of biological realities," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party Co-leader and Spokesperson on GE.

"There are clear lessons for New Zealand in this. We have got to be very careful as to where we source our seed from because it is going to be a lot harder to be certain that crop seed really is 'GE-free'.

"We have to beef up our labelling system and demand some evidence that products comply with it - just as we are now doing with seeds at the border. We have to assume that, in the absence of good evidence to the contrary, US food products will contain GE material."

Ms Fitzsimons sees some irony in the government's insistence on ignoring a sensible observation from the Royal Commission.

"This news underlines the importance of the Royal Commission's oft-ignored recommendation that food crops and animals shouldn't be used to make pharmaceutical drugs because of the risk of cross contamination.

"That means, for instance, that if potatoes are produced that contain a vaccine for hepatitis there is a real risk that they will contaminate the whole potato supply. Today's reports on the US experience would seem to suggest that such a risk is quite likely.

"The Green Party has always been very concerned that amongst the government's otherwise enthusiastic response to the Royal Commission, it has resolutely refused to accept several recommendations for caution, including this one.

"Clearly they have taken what they wanted to hear and ignored what doesn't fit their agenda."


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