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Curious Contradictions In New GE Lobby Group

The launch of the new Sustainability Council of New Zealand this morning highlighted some curious contradictions inherent in the new organization.

Members of the council were subjected to a barrage of questions from media.

Chair of the Council Sir Peter Elworthy said the new council was an apolitical organization aimed at informing New Zealanders about the GE issue.

When asked why they had chosen to launch with such a highly sensitive issue at such a sensitive time, Sir Peter said it was because New Zealanders wanted information on GE.

He denied that it was a political act, or that the council was tying to influence votes.

“We are trying to influence middle New Zealand.”

The six-member council is made up of Sir Peter Elworthy, Professor Garth Cooper, Dame Susan Devoy, food specialist and writer Annabel Langbein, actor Sam Neill and economist Simon Terry

Sir Peter said the three main concerns for the Sustainability Council were the GE trade risks, effects of GMOs on the environment and regulatory issues.

“We have concerns about the release of GE in this country and we don’t believe this issue can be adequately addressed in less than five years.”

Sir Peter said the council’s concerns were the same as the “majority of New Zealanders”.

This goes directly against recent polls, however, which have shown that two-thirds of voters support the Government's decision to move cautiously towards allowing commercial release of genetically modified products.

Sir Peter said he was concerned about the possibility of contamination of conventional crops by GE crops if GMOs were released into the environment.

It was later implied, however, that perhaps Sir Peter had a vested interest in keeping GE out of New Zealand, since he owned an organic farm.

Professor Garth Cooper said there was a strong degree of resistance to GE in Europe and that it was a serious risk for New Zealand to ignore this fact.

When asked if he had any formal reports or any evidence to support the idea that Europe would drop its trade barriers if NZ could guarantee non-GE food, Mr Cooper said he did not.

When pressed, he admitted that it was a matter of perception, more than anything else.

Asked if he had any scientific evidence that GE has damaged the environment or people’s health, Mr Cooper said he believed he did.

He said there was a case where people became sick from the chemical L-tryptophan and he believed they became infected through GE products.

He admitted, however, that it was an isolated case and that not everyone would agree with him.

At one point the question was put to the panel: “When the moratorium is lifted, the belief is that we will see GMOs in the environment, but this is not true is it?”

Mr Cooper ignored the question. Instead, he said, “New Zealand as a whole will run the risk of having markets turn against us.”


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