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Mothers V Government in GE Test Case

Mothers V Government in GE Test Case

The High Court case brought by Mothers Against Genetic Engineering in Food and the Environment (MAdGE) against the Enviromental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), Environment Minister Marian Hobbs and Crown research Institute, AgResearch, will commence in Auckland next week on Tuesday 10th June.

The groundbreaking case, which is attracting strong interest among international media, is an attempt by the mothers to tighten New Zealand's bio-security procedures.

"This case is extremely important for NZ as a country reliant on the export of dairy and meat products to world markets where there is an overwhelming rejection of GE foods. In our view ERMA's decision to approve the creation of GE cows is ethically bankrupt and legally unsound; setting a bad precedent. The law requires a rigorous assessment of all the possible adverse affects of the release of Genetically modified organisms into the environment. Erma has failed in this respect, and the adverse affects to the New Zealand environment, public health and our export markets are potentially devastating" said Kate Woodd, legal spokeswoman for MAdGE today.

The case was sparked when, in September last year, ERMA gave AgResearch the go ahead to insert human, rat, mice and deer genes into cows during its research into genetically modified milk products. AgResearch was also given permission to release these GE cattle into the environment even thought ERMA found that this experiment carried a significant risk of creating new diseases.

MAdGE is concerned that the system supposed to protect New Zealanders from the unknown risks of genetic research is not being adhered to.

It will argue that Marion Hobbs, who oversees the hazardous substances and new organisms act, failed woefully in her duty to act in a precautionary manner. The minister should have enforced the act by requiring ERMA to minimise risks and approach with caution the creation of unknown organisms. MAdGE, whose members include mothers from Northland to Bluff, has a deep concern about the risks of allowing GE organisms into food and the environment. While it doesn't oppose ethical medical research in the lab, it believes the process by which ERMA allows GE experiments to go ahead is slack, and points out that ERMA has never turned down an application to conduct GE research.

MAdGE's case overcame its first hurdle when it won the right, against strenuous opposition from AgResearch, to proceed to this high court judicial review without having to pay security for AgReserach's costs. In allowing the case to proceed to judicial review, Justice Ellen France observed that the findings would assist the Minister for the Environment, and ERMA, in approaching other applications in future. The case will be held in the high court at Auckland next week before Justice Potter for 3 days commencing Tuesday June 10th 2003. Lawyers Peter Andrew and Jamie Ferguson will be representing MAdGE.

For further information Maike Nevill, 09 849 2411 or 027 247 1375 or visit the MadGE website at www.madge.net.nz Images of women in cows heads 'Ladies in Waiting' by photographer Cindy Wilson can be downloaded and used by press at no cost.

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