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Public take to streets to oppose GE release

MEDIA RELEASE - 9 October 2002

Auckland GE-Free Coalition - www.gefree.net.nz

Public take to streets to oppose Government pushes for GE release

The New Zealand public will be taking to the streets again next month to voice rejection of the government's intransigent policy pushing for commercial release of GE organisms.

On November 16th 2002 concerned citizens will march in Auckland to repeat the message to keep our food and environment GE-FREE , which the government has been trying to ignore.

Despite widespread concern that gene technology must be subject to ethical and physical control to prevent contamination and moderate the most extreme genetic experiments, the government is failing to heed the public and key business-sectors.

The march is being organised by the Auckland GE-Free Coalition which organised the GE-Free rally in September 2001, and has the backing of community groups including MADGE, GE-Free NZ (in food and environment), Greenpeace.

"The government has to start listening to the public if they want a biotechnology industry that suits our national identity and community values. That means keeping our food supply and environment GE-Free " says Jon Carapiet, a spokesperson for the coalition.

The use of GE responsibly and ethically in containment is the direction the majority of New Zealanders accept, and that policy is consistent with the findings of the Royal Commission. But recent events signal the government is bowing to pressure from vested-interests in the biotechnology industry and overseas speculators.

A strategy of 'moving forward with caution' does not require release of GE organism into the environment nor cruel experimentation on animals when alternative scientific research using gene technology is clearly possible.

"The public are not willing to sit by and let the government collude with one sector of business to release GE organisms and so unravel our national reputation, undermine sustainable development and destroy the basic values shared by the community," says Mr Carapiet. "What part of "No" do the government not understand?"

Concern has increased because of recent signals that the public voice is being sidelined by the biotech business lobby. These include:

ERMA's approval for experimentation on GE cows with human and other genes despite scientific and ethical concerns and no guidance for the Bio Ethics Council set up in response to the Royal Commission.

The release of a public consultation document by Minister Marion Hobbs promoting the " conditional release" of GE organisms using techniques that have demonstrably failed to stop contamination overseas.

Calls for the taxpayer to pay for costs associated with GE contamination in imported maize seeds, and failure of the government to propose changes to the liability laws that will protect the public interest against uncontrolled and speculative release of GE organism.

The aerial spraying of thousands of Aucklanders with a BT spray that MAF are unsure contains genetically modified soy and maize in its nutrient-base. Despite claims of safety, sickness has lead to hundreds seeking medical help, yet the area for spraying is being expanded. ENDS

Media contact Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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