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Genetic engineering decisions put off for election

28 September 1999

Genetic engineering decisions put off for election

The proposal to put decisions on the release of genetically engineered crops on hold until March next year is a Clayton's moratorium, designed to diffuse genetic engineering as an election issue, says Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

The Government's Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council (IBAC) has recommended a delay in granting any approval for planting GE crops. The Minister of Science, Maurice Williamson has welcomed the call but wants the delay to end on 31 March next year.

"There are no current applications for full release of a GE crop, and the 6 months recommended delay is barely more than the process of considering an application would take anyway," says Jeanette Fitzsimons. "So a six month moratorium amounts to no delay at all.

"Maurice Williamson has seized on the IBAC recommendation as an opportunity to 'park' genetic engineering until after the election, just as he did with road corporatisation."

Jeanette Fitzsimons said IBAC in no way substituted for the Royal Commission of Inquiry that she and others had been calling for since last year.

"IBAC has provided submitters with a summary of the potential benefits of genetic engineering but not described the potential risks. The chair of IBAC is a known advocate of genetic engineering.

"Even if it was a credible authority, IBAC's proposed submission process is totally inadequate as a basis for making this important decision. There is no forum for public debate and no opportunity to challenge evidence given in secret.

"It will come as little surprise that all the main opponents of genetic engineering will be boycotting the IBAC process rather than giving it a legitimacy it does not have.

"Next week my petition calling for a royal commission of enquiry and a moratorium will be presented to Parliament," she said. "It has collected 85,000 signatures so far and more are coming in all the time."


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