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Trans-Tasman GE deal has a nasty smell

Trans-Tasman GE deal has a nasty smell. Is NZ being pushed as a new "experimental" lab?

The new biotech deal signed between Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and NZ Science Minister Peter Hodgson has a nasty smell and reflects an unspoken agenda to position New Zealand as a land for biotech experiments which even insurance companies refuse to cover.

The deal aims to 'accelerate collaboration between Queensland and New Zealand's biotechnology sectors,' but New Zealand looks to be set on a path to becoming an outpost for GE experimentation.

Australian grants originally set up for IT companies are now being applied to biotechnology companies. What is more , New Zealand interests are being inflated with those of Queensland's biotech industry.

" There is something fishy when Ministers talk of private industry "collaboration" rather than competition," says Jon Carapiet , from GE-free NZ in food and environment.

GE-Free NZ in food and environment want Minister Pete Hodgson to be more open and honest about what is intended by selling New Zealand as "a global centre of excellence in specific biotech areas."

" If the aim is ethical applications in containment such as Marker Assisted Breeding, we support the Minister. But if the plan is to release more and more experimental organisms into the New Zealand environment without any commercial insurance he is going in the wrong direction," says Mr Carapiet.

" The New Zealand government is already subsidising the Life Sciences Industry with public money . New legislation on GE releases here will add to a situation where experiments are pushed for private profit, but the public carry the risk."

Strange Bed-fellows lack transparency

The reputation of the Queensland government for environmental protection is less than ideal. Queensland Premier Beattie spoke of 'aggressively' exploring more avenues that build strong biotech relationship and collaboration,' whilst fellow countryman Barry Carbon, now appointed to New Zealand as Environment Ministry CEO has publicly stated his determination to lift the GE moratorium later this year despite public
concerns. 'Once a govt decides policy, its our job to make that happen.'

Mr.Carbon, who only last year was the top man in Queensland's EPA prior to the completion of his 5 year contract, left to take up the New Zealand MfE job a few days prior to the breaking of the Corngate story. During Corngate he vigorously defended the integrity of the public service against attack stating on Radio NZ 5-9-02 'If anyone else attacks the integrity of public servants, they better look out.'

Environmentalists attempts to achieve reform of the system of environmental regulation of the mining industry in Queensland are reported to have been scotched by such strong arm tactics.

Unfortunately it is up to the public to keep a watchful eye on the integrity
of public servants . Only this week David Cunliffe, who set up
the inquiry into Corngate, resigned from sitting on the select committee investigating the incident because of a perceived conflict of interest. Mr Cunliffe was instrumental in setting the terms of reference and the committee has refused to allow further testing of the seeds in question.

GE Free New Zealand are asking the government to be more open about it's backing for the Life Sciences industry generally, as there is increasing evidence that its policies compromise the public interest.

There are already clear examples, such as the cost of using "patented" human genes to test for Breast cancer, that signal justified concern. GE-Free NZ in food and environment want the government to be more honest and they can start by ensuring that proper testing is undertaken to clarify the status of the Corngate seeds.

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