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GE-free march helps mark a path


GE-free march helps mark out path for a national biotechnology strategy

Saturday's GE-Free march in Auckland is more than a protest march and will voice civil society's demand for an ethical biotechnology strategy in New Zealand.

The march comes a day after the deadline closed for public submissions to the Ministry for the Environment on GE release, enquiring into how contamination can be limited to allow GE organisms to co-exist with conventional agriculture.

But the Ministry's proposals are based on use of buffer zones and other techniques that have failed overseas indicating a fundamental conflict between official acceptance of GM contamination and the New Zealand Public's unequivocal rejection of it.

" This march can be seen as a mass- public-submission to the government, but one which comes just a day after their deadline,' says Jon Carapiet spokesperson for the Auckland GE-Free Coalition and the national spokesperson for GE-Free NZ ( in food and environment).

Jon Carapiet- says the march is not about banning GE but about ensuring live organisms do not spread irreversibly into the environment, and that GE-Free production, our economy, culture and basic human rights are protected for future generations.

Mr Carapiet believes the march will add even more weight to a written submission to the Ministry , (summarised below), that has been endorsed by civil society organisations representing many thousands of people.

" I believe this march and the written submission should be welcomed by the government. The message it sends is that ethical use of biotechnology is the only future for New Zealand and that requires GE to be contained, not forced on erveryone by releasing it into our fields and food."

The majority of the New Zealand public wants our food and environment to remain GE-Free but people are not rejecting modern science. People are rejecting bad science that lacks ethical oversight and has become compromised by commercial interests and weak regulation.

" There is a path forward for the biotechnology industry in Aotearoa New Zealand but it requires genuine respect for wider community values", says Mr Carapiet.

"The march is an opportunity for the government and industry to listen and start developing a genuinely ethical strategy for biotechnology predicated on containment of GE. It is not good enough that the Public's message has so far fallen on deaf ears as approval for human genes to be inserted into cows has recently shown."

5)Summary of key points

The submitters oppose "conditional release" of GE/GM organisms.


Attempts tostop GM contamination with controls such as buffer zones have failed to
protect conventiona! l and organic crops in Europe and North America. No release - "conditional" or otherwise- of GM organisms should be allowed.


The submitters acknowledge the Government's decision that "New Zealand proceed carefully and implement GM selectively and cautiously". However release of GMO's into the environment should not be part of this policy. The Government's biotechnology strategy can be achieved through fully contained applications that meet community values and ethical standards but do not require GE organisms to be released into the environment or food chain.

The HSNO Act and regulatory process must be improved to integrate issues of
ethics and culture in a decisive way. This should include a regulatory role
for the Bio Ethics Council, including a power of veto. The submitters support the inclusion of "cultural, ethical and spiritual issues" as part of the criteria for assessing all applications and not just part of Ministerial "call-in" powers.


The submitters support a permanent ban on human reproductive cloning
and inheritable genetic modification of human beings ('designer humans').


A separate Act from HSNO is needed to regulate genetic modification of
human cell lines and human material. An effective and accountable system is
needed to regulate other human genetic technologies e.g. stem cell research,
pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and human somatic gene therapy. The most cost-effective and practicable approach to managing risk is PREVENTION of contamination by approving only contained applications for GM organisms.

There must be full and unlimited liability, even for so-called 'unforeseen' damage, to encourage companies to fully control GE/GM organisms in all situations. Existing liability rules neither encourage precaution nor produce effective compensation.


Commercial insurance must be required of GM-companies as a normal cost
of business and a moderating influence. "Socialising" risk on the public
is an unacceptable subsidy of commercial GM users. Under the principle of
"Polluter Pays" the costs of compensation and remedial action must be carried by the user to ensure reasonable standards of caution in commercial GM speculation.

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