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Green bill would keep GE at bay

1 March 2005

Green bill would keep GE at bay until the 'fork in the road'

Green MP Ian Ewen-Street says Parliament should heed new information, including a key recent Government report, when considering his GE Moratorium Reinstatement Bill at its first reading tomorrow.

The Ministry of Research, Science and Technology report 'Futurewatch: Biotechnologies to 2025', published in January, predicts a critical "fork in the road" sometime between 2008 and 2013, where consumer demand will force markets to choose between GE or "smart breeding" when developing new crop varieties.

"The economic opportunities for New Zealand lie in responding to market pressures, so we would do well to have a Moratorium on GE until MoRST's "fork in the road" has been passed, and my bill's five-year reinstatement does just that," said Mr Ewen-Street, the Green Party's Agriculture Spokesperson.

"In my view, the fork in the road is between GE and conventional agriculture, within which marker-assisted selection technology or smart breeding may or may not have a role. The huge and on-going consumer resistance to GE will lead the world to choose the path of naturally produced food and fibre, so we are best to maintain the '100% Pure' market advantage our farmers already enjoy.

"Why this critical 'fork in the road' is coming is clear to see. The Human Genome Project has thrown open a whole range of uncertainties that even the most ardent of supporters of GE acknowledge will take decades of research to address. Co-existence of GE and conventional crops hasn't worked, with the latter becoming contaminated even when buffer zones have been used. And there have been revelations about the inadequacy of the US crop and food approval process that other countries such as New Zealand have relied on.

"Parliament should also consider that a number of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Genetic Modification have not been implemented, for example, research on horizontal gene transfer. Furthermore the biosecurity implications of introducing alien GE species to our unique ecosystems have not been properly addressed.

"Popular resistance has ensured that there has been no release of GE organisms into our environment, despite the Government placing so much political emphasis on ending the previous moratorium. However in the absence of a regulatory safeguard such as a moratorium, our continued GE-Free status is a matter of good fortune rather good policy.

"Overall, the Government would do well to take a deep breath and start acting in a precautionary manner On GE, about which there is still so much scientific uncertainty and ethical division."

Mr Ewen-Street's Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Genetically Modified Organisms Moratorium Reinstatement) Amendment Bill 2003 is due to be debated tomorrow night, Wednesday 2 March. MoRST's report is available at www.morst.govt.nz/uploadedfiles/Biotechnology/FutureWatchBookFull.pdf, the reference to the "fork in the road" is on page 17 of the PDF (page 12 in the paper).


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