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GE Education Resource Pack Balanced

GE Free Northland (In Food & Environment) 4.3.02

Public Debate Must Not Be Stifled: GE Education Resource Pack Balanced And Necessary, Says Community Group

ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff’s attack on a community grant to GE FREE NORTHLAND (in Food & Environment) has raised concerns over how to ensure open debate about the critical GE issue, says spokeswoman Zelka Grammer.

The voluntary group recently won a grant of $4,000 from COGS (Community Organisations Grants Scheme) to produce an educational information packet on Genetic Engineering.

Ms. Grammer said the Government had already spent some $l50 million of taxpayers’ money fostering genetic engineering through Public Good Science funding of the experimental technology, including field trials. This money has been approved despite the fact that in every poll taken (as well as over 90% of the submissions to the Royal Commission) the public majority had made it clear they did not wish to eat GE foods or have GE experiments outside the safe containment of the laboratory.

The $4,000 grant to the community group therefore represented a drop in the ocean of public funding already committed to furthering GE.

She said Mr. Eckhoff’s attack was all the more surprising considering that the group had been at pains to provide contacts in the pack for pro-GE sources of information, in order to present a wide range of views. Mr. Eckhoff had also failed to either contact GE FREE NORTHLAND or view a prototype pack, resulting in significant errors in his recent press release. One error was the implication that the community group is opposed to all genetic engineering. The group only opposes genetic engineering in food and fields, not ethical uses in the laboratory.

She said she hoped Mr. Eckhoff’s attack had not been aimed at stopping public debate, prompted by vested interests involved in the controversial new technology.

The information contained in the pack details what genetic engineering is, the potential risks of GE foods (including a booklet providing information for consumers who wish to avoid them), as well as current documentation of impacts on the environment and farmers from GE crops and experiments.

The information pack covers a variety of issues of interest to teachers, students and parents and included a comprehensive list of websites to facilitate independent student research, Ms. Grammer said. These websites include a wide range of views, designed to encourage more balanced scientific debate among students.

Many eminent scientists worldwide had raised serious concerns about the safety and appropriateness of GE, and the community and schools had a right to that information which the government had not provided, Ms. Grammer said.

At a time when the Royal Society (UK) and other food safety authorities are questioning the safety of GE foods, ANZFA (Australian NZ Food Authority) continues to approve GE foods despite the concerns of New Zealanders. The government has failed to provide comprehensive labeling of GE foods so GE FREE NORTHLAND is providing an important public service by detailing information as to which foods contain GE ingredients (so that consumers who wish to avoid them retain that choice).

Only a small % of the foods containing GE ingredients are labeled- effectively taking away consumer choice and traceability in the event of adverse effects.

ENDS

Contact: Zelka Grammer, Chairperson GE FREE NORTHLAND (in Food & Environment) 09 4322155


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