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Demand For Inquiry Into GE Maize Planting

10 July 2002

Demand for inquiry as Government stands condemned of duplicity over GE corn plantings.

The decision by the government to allow GE-contaminated maize to planted in New Zealand shows an alarming level of duplicity and further undermines public confidence in the government policy on GM bio-security.

GE-Free New Zealand (in food and environment) are demanding a public inquiry to investigate the incident that occured during the Royal Commission's voluntary-moratorium period. The investigation should include the role of vested interests from the biotechnology industry in pressuring government to accept the contaminated seed.

The contamination is a wake-up call to regulators and the public that New Zealand cannot afford to drop its standards for bio-security and zero-tolerance for GE contamination if we want to protect our economy.

'"If you find a fire in your kitchen, you don't let the whole house burn down. You put the fire out and prevent it from doing more damage," said Jon Carapiet, a spokesperson from GE-Free New Zealand (in food and environment).

"Unfortunately it seems that in the case of this GE -contaminated seed, the government decided to let the fire burn, because it was commercially more convenient than stopping it."

Claims by author Nicky Hager in a new book " Seeds of Distrust" indicate that Minister Marion Hobbs knowingly allowed GM-contaminated maize to be planted in Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough.

The book also claims the board of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, (ERMA) were not told about the decision to allow the plantings till after it was made. The author highlights an internal ERMA memo saying it was still not too late to pull out the crops and inform the public of the accident.

" GE-Free New Zealand (in food and environment) have challenged Marion Hobbs on this issue before, and have had our concerns dismissed. For years we have been pleading for MAF to test all potentially-contaminated batches of seed, especially maize," said Mr Carapiet.

The GM-contaminated crop may have contaminated other farms -conventional and organic- but these have not even been tested. The Liability issue must be resolved, but the government should immediately move to fund this testing. They should also fund testing and decontamination of the GE-Tamarillo field trial in Northland, about which even the Royal Commission on GM backed public concern.

Pressure from the biotechnology industry to turn a blind eye to the contaminated seed and allow it into our fields must also be investigated. There may be a hidden agenda to force countries to accept contamination by GM so that they have no option but allow GE food and crops that have been mixed into the mainstream non-GE food systems.

" If this is the case, it is unethical and will deny all people the right to avoid GE-food. It is not just a safety issue. People do not want to be forced to eat GE food for many different reasons including safety, diet, cultural tradition, ethical values, and religious belief, " said Mr Carapiet.

"Biotech industry lobby-groups like The Life Sciences Network are claiming the contamination has no proven health or safety implications. Where is their evidence, and why are they not concerned about this basic breakdown in regulation and its potential to damage our economy? They seem to believe that because importation of illegal organisms- including GM organisms- cannot be completely stopped -New Zealand shouldn't bother with strict biosecurity measures. We disagree," said Mr Carapiet.

ENDS

Jon Carapiet- 09 815 3370


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