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Nationwide GE-Free NZ Postcard Campaign Launched

NATIONWIDE POSTCARD CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED

Wellington, May 20 2001: A nationwide postcard campaign calling on the Government to declare New Zealand's environment and food chain GE-Free has been launched this week.

The campaign is the initiative of the Coalition for a GE-Free Environment Aotearoa New Zealand, whose members include some of the country's biggest environmental organisations as well as organic agriculture, consumer rights and community organisations. Its purpose is to give public concern in the country a voice.

Five different postcards address the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Agriculture, Environment, Health and Research, Science and Technology. The Ministers are urged to:

* ban all field trials and commercial releases of genetically engineered organisms * keep all GE foods out of the country * restrict genetic engineering to contained laboratories.

Annette Cotter of Greenpeace New Zealand says that a GE-Free environment is the only serious option for our country. "Countries like Thailand have already taken the sensible route and committed to a GE-Free environment and we in New Zealand should do the same to protect our environment and our clean, green reputation. Evidence from scientists before the Royal Commission clearly indicated that release is reckless, as the risks of GMOs cannot be adequately identified let alone managed."

Seager Mason of Bio-Gro, one of New Zealand's organic producers organisations and certification agencies, says "GE is incompatible with our organic production, and with our conventional agricultural markets. Already organic products overseas have been contaminated by GE. New Zealand has a tremendous opportunity to position itself at the top end of world markets for organic and "green" food products. Allowing genetically engineered organisms into agriculture here would be a disaster, it would consign us to the dustbin of world markets.

Mr Mason said that US corn growers have watched their sales of corn to Europe decline from 2 million tonnes in 1997 down to less than 30 000 tonnes last year because Europeans don't want GE food. "If you apply this same loss of markets to New Zealand's dairy industry then our current 13 000 plus dairy farms would be reduced to about 200 farms."

Hilary Phillips, of Jews for GE-Free Food says that as New Zealanders, we have the right to follow our religious beliefs, which include our dietary laws.

"Genetic engineering is not eco-kosher, because it breaks the laws of kashrut (to do with food) but also the laws of kilayim (the laws of nature). A complete ban on GE foods now would remove the risk of unknowingly consuming non-kosher food and ensure our civil rights. Comprehensive labelling of GE food will remove the risk only so long as there remains a reasonable choice of non-GE foods." says Phillips.

The Minister for the Environment announced this week that the Royal Commission has been granted an extension and will be reporting back on July 27. The postcard campaign will continue until the government announces its decision, expected to be August.

"In the end it is the Government who will decide which path we as a country go down," says Susie Lees of GE-Free NZ. "This campaign is an opportunity for the many New Zealanders who aspire to a GE-Free environment and food chain to urge the government to do the right thing."

-- ENDS --

The postcards and information on the organisations involved are accessible at: http://nzgefree.nelson.org.nz

For further information: Seager Mason, Bio-Gro. Tel: 025 274 7435 Annette Cotter, Greenpeace New Zealand. Tel: 021-565175 Hilary Phillips, Jews for GE-Free Food. Tel: 04-475 8729 Susie Lees, GE-Free NZ. Tel: 03 546 7966

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