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Jeanette Wants To Debate G-E Milk And Cows

Jeanette Wants To Debate G-E Milk And Cows With Dairy Board

Aug 8, 1999

Green Party-Dairy Board debate wanted

The Green Party today asked the Dairy Board for a public debate on board plans to spend $150 million over five years on biotechnology, including genetically engineering cows.

Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is suggesting that the debate be held between herself and board chairman John Storey at a mutally convenient time and venue. Members of the public who attend should be given a chance to ask questions, Ms Fitzsimons said.

The board's proposal was the biggest genetic engineering decision yet made in New Zealand, and both consumers and farmers needed a say on it urgently, she said today.

"Milk is not only one of the key elements of the staple diet of New Zealanders, it is also a national icon," Ms Fitzsimons said. "Possibly no photograph of this country is more famous worldwide than that of cows grazing on lush pasture, with Mount Taranaki in the background.

"The board is endangering this natural image of New Zealand."

Ms Fitzsimons said she was concerned that the board was declining to say what genes from which animals it was planning to add to cows. She said in the letter to Mr Storey that she was also concerned that a Dairy Board publication, the December Review, was upbeat about proposals to replace some cow genes with human genes (such as AgResearch is already doing ).

Letter to Dairy Board follows

Aug 8, 1999

Mr John Storey The Chairman New Zealand Dairy Board

Dear Mr Storey,

I note your announcement that the Board has decided to commit $30 million a year over five years on research biotechnology, and would be grateful if you would consider a proposal which I believe could be beneficial in addressing public concern about the plan.

I suggest that a public seminar be held, at a time and venue mutually agreed, where you and I could debate the health, economic and ethical implications of the Board's decision.

Such a debate, I believe, is essential when the board is in effect taking one of the largest sectors of New Zealand's agriculture down such a risky pathway as genetic engineering. It might also be useful for you to undertake a professionally organised survey of New Zealand dairy farmers to gauge whether or not they are supportive of your genetic engineering proposals.

I note with concern that the Board has declined this weekend to say which genes from what non-bovine animals it plans to add to cows. I am also concerned that your last December Review contained an article referring in an upbeat way to "ambitious schemes" to replace some cow genes with human genes.

You will be aware that several million dollars of Public Good Science Fund and other taxpayer money was invested in recent years in crown research institute and university work to genetically engineer kiwifruit and apples. However after public disapproval this year, both the Kiwifruit Marketing Board and the Apple and Pear Marketing Board backed off from involvement in genetically engineered products.

I would be interested to hear your arguments for planning to spend $150 million on biotechnology over the next five years, but I believe it is more important that consumers and farmers hear both sides of the arguments in respect to genetically engineered dairy products as soon as possible.

Your sincerely,

Jeanette Fitzsmmons MP

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