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Government too late over GE salmon - Greens

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today criticised the National Government for years of "doing nothing" on genetically engineered salmon research, after news today that GE eggs may have escaped from King Salmon's research site.

Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) chief executive Bas Walker today admitted there was a chance that GE salmon eggs may have escaped into the environment.

"But this hand-wringing has come after months of inaction by ERMA after I warned in April of very specific dangers at the site, including of egg escape," Ms Fitzsimons said today. "It has also come after five years of GE salmon work which government agencies kept quiet about. Those same agencies should have been monitoring the research. They left the monitoring almost entirely to the company itself."

Alarm bells should have rung merely because King Salmon is owned by the Tiong Group, a Malaysian-based multinational responsible for rainforest destruction throughout the world, she said.

"But there are numerous reasons why the Government should have taken this experiment much more seriously. For example New Zealand is the only country in the International Salmon Farmers Association to back genetically engineered salmon. "In September 1996 the International Salmon Farmers Association (ISFA) at a meeting in Galway, Ireland adopted a resolution that maintained that member nations of the ISFA did NOT become involved in the genetic manipulation of farmed salmon. This resolution was supported by all member nations other than New Zealand who voted against the resolution." In recent months, this non-binding resolution to oppose genetically engineered farmed salmon was reconfirmed by the international association, Ms Fitzsimons said.

"Farmed salmon regularly escape into the wild and now form a significant part of wild stocks around the world. Concern about the risks to wild salmon and to ocean and river ecosystems from super-fast-growing GE salmon has led all other countries to say, `We won't do it if you won't'. But not New Zealand.

"Salmon are migratory fish and I know that in Canada and in Scotland, where scientists are also persisting with GE salmon research, deep concern has been expressed about the possibility of genetically engineered salmon polluting wild stocks."

In April this year the Green Party released a leaked document written by the PR firm Communications Trumps which urged King Salmon to keep the GE research secret, saying: "issues such as deformities, lumps on heads etc should not be mentioned at any point to anyone outside"


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