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Fonterra to protect New Zealand 'image'

GE Free New Zealand
Press Release 24.9.01

Fonterra to protect New Zealand 'image' by separate marketing of cancer-scare milk under US brand-name

NZ dairy giant Fonterra says it will market milk produced in the US using a genetically engineered hormone but will ensure New Zealand milk is marketed separately to avoid damaging New Zealand 's "clean - green" brand image.

The move by Fonterra follows criticism that its tie-up with pro-GE food company 'Nestle', and US milk producers using the GE hormone " rGBH" - implicated as a cause of increased incidence of some cancers- is a threat to the New Zealand export-image. Separate marketing would help protect NZ's reputation as a producer of clean and natural foods, including products under the international "Anchor" brand.

Fonterras' move to ensure NZ milk and dairy products are not cross-contaminated physically or in terms of its marketing overseas, was announced at a public meeting in Auckland by David Cunliffe, Titirangi Labour MP, who said he had raised the issue with
Fonterra in recent weeks.

Mr Cunliffe was chairing a public meeting on GE with invited speakers from the scientific and environmental communities as well as Royal Commissioner Bishop Richard Randerson. During the three-hour meeting, characterised by balanced and respectful debate, Mr Cunliffe said that some Dairy products being exported from NZ were already "GE" and that GE products in NZ included "vegetarian cheese" which people seeking to avoid GE should be aware of. Only last month New Zealand produce was rejected by Sri Lanka, because of GE contamination and had to be replaced with product guaranteed to be GE-Free.

The meeting discussed issues of denying consumers a choice to avoid GE as the food system becomes contaminated, and the threat to New Zealand from irreversible contamination resulting from outside trials of GE. The panel was questioned on the ethics of allowing outside field trials of GE designed to address concerns about contamination identified by the Commission, but which could themselves cause irreversible contamination.

During the discussion Dr Daniel Cohen, a senior scientist with Hort Research, and a witness at the Royal Commission, challenged Greenpeace spokeperson Annette Cotter on her concerns over "irreversible" GE contamination. Ms Cotter highlighted the long-term impacts through soil contamination and horizontal gene transfer -HGT, and also the example of Starlink corn- a variant approved only for animals because of its allergenicity in humans. Starlink GE corn had now been found to have spread throughout the human food chain.Ms Cotter said the system had been contaminated and over a billion dollars spent on trying to recall it. She said the contamination from Starlink had even spread to Mexico, a vital source of biodiversity, and was a shocking example of how quickly irreversible contamination can occur.

Ms Cotter said the Starlink accident also highlighted the need for reform of the Liability rules which the Royal Commission advised should remain unchanged at this stage. Because insurance companies refused to insure damage from GE because of the lack of
scientific knowledge, the risk from GE was being "socialised" on the public, potentially exposing the country to huge losses as a result of damage to the ecosystem or exports of GE-Free conventional, and organic produce.

Ms Cotter warned that damage to New Zealand's image was already occurring citing the UK paper The Guardian Weekly report ( Sept 20-26 ) which reported that despite the global market for GM food declining rapidly, "the New Zealand government has strongly backed the crops."

Ends.

More information from
David Cunliffe MP- 09 827 3064
Jon Carapiet- 09 815 3370

GE Free New Zealand
In Food And Environment (RAGE) Inc.
PO Box 693, Nelson Tel 03 548 6608 Fax 03 546 5036
gefree@ts.co.nz
www.gefree.org.nz

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