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Labour's GE policy change still omits field trials

Alliance environment spokesperson Phillida Bunkle is welcoming Labour's policy of GE labelling, and a moratorium on the release of GE crops while an inquiry is held. But she says it's a pity that Labour blocked the moratorium and inquiry when her Bill came before parliament this year. Labour described the identical policy to the one it has now adopted as 'silly'.

In May Phillida Bunkle's Bill came before parliament for a vote on a Commission of Inquiry into all aspects of genetic engineering and a moratorium on the commercial sale and release of GE products while the inquiry was underway.

The Bill failed to pass after Labour voted against it. 'If Labour had voted for the Bill then, the inquiry would be underway now and the commercial release of GE products would not be possible.

'It is exasperating to say the least that Labour voted down that Bill and now, only five months later, claims it will do in Government what the Bill would have done already.

'Back in March, Labour's Mark Peck said 'the problem with the debate on these issues is that it gets captured by the antis.... There is a whole group of people who see only the Frankenstein element. They have not worked out that if we are to feed the world we have to get a handle on ...genetic modification.

''Now Mark Peck says he agrees that the Frankenstein element are right,” Phillida Bunkle said.

'This episode shows that the pressure the Alliance has mounted over the genetic engineering issue has been enough to get Labour to change its position.

'Labour is still fudging the issue of field trials of GE crops, which is the key current issue. There are currently no commercial planting applications in New Zealand. When Labour says its emphasis is 'strictly on safety, which requires strict rules of containment', it is avoiding the issue of field trials, which is the pressing issue at the moment.'Instead Labour makes oblique references to 'containment'. Britain is now reviewing all GE field trial provisions after pollen from a trial turned up five kilometres away from a field trial site.

'The fudging of this issue shows why the Alliance is needed more than ever in strength to negotiate for a stronger GE-safety policy in a new government,' Phillida Bunkle said.

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