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Economic policy demands GM moratorium extension

Government's economic policy demands GM moratorium extension

The governments' own economic policies and its decision to follow the Royal Commission's advice to " preserve opportunities" will require it to extend the moratorium on GM commercial release. But developments in contained and ethical uses of gene technology mean the government can " have its cake and eat it too".

That is the only reasonable decision open to the government based on its own economic analysis of the impact of commercialising GM in the open environment, and in the light of extended moratoriums by other governments including New South Wales, Tasmania, and Switzerland.

Many governments are holding off on GM commercial release for 3-5 years and the recent economic modelling confirm this as the right direction for New Zealand.

New Zealand must follow these other governments. The Precautionary Principle applies to the economy as well as the environment, especially if companies refuse to accept liability for unintended damage from their products.

"The government must explain why New Zealanders should gamble with our greatest asset when the risk of economic damage is so great. Why should we join the handful of countries commercialising GM when they are already struggling with contamination of canola, maize and soya." says Jon Carapiet from GE free NZ in food and environment.

"Countries like Argentina, the US and China and are not economic models for New Zealand's agricultural sector. Quite the contrary."

"In 1995 we were told about the wonders of GE yet the reality has resulted in unforeseen contamination and collapse of markets," says Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ. in food and environment.

However the government can still " have its cake and eat it" by preserving opportunities for both GE-free production and contained uses of GM including Marker Assisted Breeding (MAB).

"There are opportunities for the industry that avoid the risks to the environment and our economy: the government should be preserving our GM-free option by investing in those sustainable uses of the technologies," says Mr Carapiet.

The officially-commissioned BERL report found that "Smaller biotech companies have already reverted to using conventional plant breeding techniques that do not have to go through stringent tests".

The report's final comment says that a critical pre-requisite for GMO release is "a conclusive determination of the economic impact".

"The game is up: overseas biotech companies like Monsanto are being charged with the responsibility of paying up for the damage of GM releases " says Claire Bleakley. "A Treasury that bases its economic growth on the assumption that in ten years the world will be so contaminated by GMO's that consumers will buy cheap New Zealand agricultural produce is deeply flawed and blinded to reality by its cynicism."

In parts of India GM Bt crops have failed and in Brazil illegal GM seeds have contaminated soy to a degree that was hard to imagine a few years ago, and now threatens that country's exports.

Over the last five years North America has lost $12.5 billion in export sales due to GE failure and consumer aversion.

Trish Jordan, spokeswoman for Monsanto Canada, was cited as confirming that at least 85 per cent of the Canola oil sold in Canada now contains GMO's.

Innovest Strategic Value Advisors (2003) advice to investors was "If Monsanto does not take steps to mitigate its substantial market risks, further investor losses are likely. The risk of heavy financial losses due to genetic pollution or technology failure coupled with sustained market rejection of GE foods makes Monsanto a poor investment."

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