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LSN warned: listen to public- don't "modify" us

Life Sciences Network warned: listen to public- don't "modify" us

23 July 2002

Biotech Industry urged to respect community values rather than "modify" them, and warned to keep pharmaceutical-GM out of the food chain.

Biotechnology industry lobby-group "Life Sciences Network" are being urged to respect community values relating to genetic modification, and work with public-interest groups like The Sustainability Council rather than oppose them.

Responding to the industry's new PR and advertising campaign, aimed at "modifying" the public's views on GM, GE-Free NZ (in food and environment) believe the best direction for New Zealand's biotechnology strategy will only be found if industry listen to community-groups rather than telling New Zealander's what to think.

GE-Free NZ (in food and environment) reject claims that New Zealanders are "anti-science" just because a majority support containing applications of this powerful technology.

However the debate created by the industry's new campaign - to be launched on Wednesday- may have a positive outcome by highlighting the many uses of GM that can be kept in the lab, and the serious risks of using food-crops to produce pharmaceuticals in the open-field.

The new PR campaign features a researcher whose work was damaged in a mystery-attack earlier this year. One of the projects used gene technology without any intention to release a live GE-organism- exactly the kind of use permitted under a GE-Free policy for food and the environment. However other projects are reported to have been using food plants to produce pharmaceuticals. This is a process that has alarmed scientists and regulatory authorities around the world because of the dangers from inadvertent spread of chemical-producing crops into the human food chain.

"Some of the experiments should raise alarm-bells.There is a serious problem in companies using food-crops to make anything from aids-related vaccines to spermicides." said Jon Carapiet- a spokesperson for GE-Free NZ (in food and environment). "Rather than uncontrolled release into the environment motivated by corporate profit, New Zealand's biotechnology strategy should focus on the ethical use of genetic modification in the lab. This will this will benefit NZ without threatening our exports, tourism-image, biosecurity and economic well-being" said Mr.Carapiet.

"The warning on Liability from the Crown Law Office, and the clear evidence that cross-contamination cannot be prevented as the Royal Commission originally hoped, supports the public assessment that GE should be kept in containment," said Mr.Carapiet.

"It is regrettable that expensive industry PR-spin is replacing dialogue with groups like the Sustainability Council, GE-Free NZ, Maori, and even the yet-to-be-appointed Bio-Ethics Council. Industry would be better to listen to people rather than try to modify them."


For further comment- Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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