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Green Party issues details of report on GenePool

A parliamentary select committee report has confirmed that nearly all last year's expenditure by the genetic engineering lobby group Gene Technology Information Trust (usually called GenePool) went to the public relations firm Communications Trumps.

The education and science committee report also includes a heading "Conflict of interest" which says, "At the same time as it [Communications Trumps] was assisting the trust it was also advising King Salmon, a company which used gene technology to alter its product". The report's conclusion says that one of the "aspects about the operations of the trust" that gave cause for unease was: "The trust's pamphlet which appears to provide only one side of the issue". Another was: "The central role of Communications Trumps, which was also acting for a company using gene technology".

The report says: "We received the trust's income and expenditure account for the period ending 31 December 1998. It shows that the trust's total expenditure was $196,314.98. Of that, $189,140.42 was paid to a public relations firm, Communications Trumps".

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today: "I am relieved that we now know what we suspected all along - that Communications Trumps received most of GenePool's funds, and that taxpayer money has been used to promote genetic engineering. Communications Trumps was closely associated with the trust, sharing office facilities and staff.

"I remain disturbed that there is nothing to stop this scenario being played out again when GenePool's successor launches itself, something I am expecting any day."

Income is also included in the report, showing taxpayers spent more than $100,000 funding GenePool. This included $30,625 from Crown research institutes, $70,000 from government science grants, while $27,500 came from Monsanto. Ms Fitzsimons said she was concerned that GenePool had long claimed to be an unbiased education trust, with the stated purpose (according to the committee report) of "providing authoritative gene technology information to enable New Zealanders to make informed choices about the use of the technology".

"We now know that it received a `substantial donation from Monsanto' in the words of the committee's report and that the trust's pamphlet `appears to provide only one side of the issue'."

In April this year Ms Fitzsimons released a leaked document written by Communications Trumps. The document, prepared for New Zealand King Salmon, advised the firm that in relation to its genetic engineering programme, "issues such as deformities, lumps on heads etc should not be mentioned at any point to any outside".

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