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Maori Party Commends Kumara Initiative

Maori Party Commends Initiative of the ‘Guardians of the Kumara’

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party; 20 January 2006

The Maori Party today congratulated Te Pu Hao Rangi Trust, guardians of the early kumara, for their joint venture with Tahuri Whenua Inc, the National Maori Vegetable Growers Collective, to explore the economic potential of the early kumara.

Technology New Zealand is funding a two year project, based on nine lines of early Maori kumara. The unique white-skinned, white-fleshed kumara are being studied to identify a early kumara line suitable for the market.

“I pay special tribute to the dedication of the kuia, Dell Wihongi [Te Rawawa, Hokianga] who I know will ensure that the intellectual property involved in this research will stay with tangata whenua” stated Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party.

Dell Wihongi was Principal claimant for the WAI 262 claim, the Native Flora and Fauna claim; and is Chairperson of Te Pu Hao Rangi Trust.

The precedent for securing intellectual property rights has been established internationally, through an agreement with the International Potato Centre (which is part of the United Nations) and the Potato Park owned by the six Aymara/Quechua communities. The Centre signed a binding agreement that they would not assert intellectual property rights over any research results or products.

“This kind of research is exciting if it has the potential to reduce poverty amongst Maori whanau by encouraging more whanau to grow produce for their own consumption as well as for markets” said Mrs Turia.

“The Mäori Party welcomes any opportunity to share the benefits of our traditional foods” stated Mrs Turia. “Our hope will be that the outcomes of this research will not just produce food for the high-end boutique market, but will also create affordable food for all”.

“The Maori Party also commends the initiative of Tahuri Whenua in their endeavours to produce taewa (potato), kaanga (corn), hue and kamokamo.

“Re-introducing traditional staple foods such as these early kumara into whanau diets, can also have great promise in improving Maori health” said Mrs Turia.

Mrs Turia spoke about the cultivation of the early kumara in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“These issues are uppermost in our minds with the United Nations meeting next week in Spain expected to discuss, again, the contentious issues around the so-called ‘Terminator Technology’.

Terminator (or GURTS - Genetic Use Restriction Technology) is a technology of genetic engineering that has been designed by the multi-national seed industry to render seeds sterile at harvest - thus forcing farmers to return to corporations to buy fresh seeds rather than saving and reusing their own.

“The Maori Party is aware that the multi-national seed companies have often campaigned long and hard to convince indigenous people that they have the answer to crop failure with the creation of their hybrid plants, when in fact crop failure is often the result of deforestation, chemical pollution and the ozone layer effect”.

“The Maori Party will be writing to the Government to encourage them to maintain the moratorium against Terminator Technology” stated Mrs Turia.

“Maori organic food producers, small-holder farmers, and tangata whenua will be amongst other communities campaigning against genetic use restriction technologies” said Mrs Turia.

“We will be keeping a close eye on the Government delegates attending the Convention of Biological Diversity [CBD] and Agricultural Biological Diversity [ABD] meetings to protect traditional knowledge and food security, through opposing terminator technology”.

ENDS

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