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Govt. Dodging Mainstream Media On GE Stance

The SOIL & HEALTH Assn of NZ (Inc)
Publishers of Organic NZ

The Government seems keen to dodge mainstream media scrutiny of its attempts to defuse the mounting public outcry over its GE stance.

A press release under the name of Labour MP Dr Ashraf Choudhary was sent to “selected” media yesterday – seemingly concentrating on small, specialist publications.

NZ Soil and Health Association co-chair Steffan Browning says the release appeared to be an attempt by the Government to influence grass roots organisations with few staff or resources to investigate or question the discredited science quoted.

The release emphasised the Labour MP’s university and science background but simply restated the ailing party line that Environment Minister Marian Hobbs has been struggling to make plausible.

Dr Choudray appears to have been forced to put his credibility on the line in an attempt to lend some credibility to the Government’s stance.

“The CRIs that Dr Choudhary’s release quotes, supporting conditional release, are hardly examples of scientific independence. They are corporatised science.”

In fact, all the interest groups and organisations quoted by the Choudhary release are organisations which stand to gain from GE release, says Mr Browning.

“Dr Choudhary has ignored the NZ corporations and scientists that don’t want GE.”

“Dr Choudhary and Minister Hobbs fail to comply with the Royal Commission’s recommendations of research before release. One example is the application now before ERMA for an organism to study horizontal gene transfer. This study should be completed before any release.”

“Is Dr Choudhary unaware of the massive corruption of process in regards safety research on GE and the suppression of researched evidence damning GE?”

“Why won’t insurance companies cover GE ?” Mr Browning asks. “Where is the guarantee of protection against economic loss for the majority of New Zealand farmers who don’t want GE?”

“Where is the guarantee of no contamination by GE organisms and toxins for those same farmers, or the organic producers whose certification demands zero tolerance, or the home gardeners wanting pure food for their families, not to mention New Zealand’s booming honey industry and our highly valued conservation estate?”

Mr Browning suggests that the Labour caucus read the editorials scribed by the head of their own Parliamentary Media Unit and Labour candidate, Mr Brendon Burns, when he was editor of The Marlborough Express newspaper.

In an editorial in July 2001 Mr Burns says
“Preserving Opportunities is the major theme of the report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. In fact it does nothing of the sort.
The report will almost certainly close the door on a once-only opportunity for New Zealand to secure its trading future as a nation which refused to tolerate inter-species genetic engineering………
This was not an issue where balance was possible. You either have genetic modification - or you don't.
It is a fallacy to believe that the genie can be controlled once out of the bottle. Try telling that to the soya farmers of the United States who now face a backlash to their beans from consumers who want to know if they are eating genetically modified crops or not. It is impossible to easily tell
when the crops can grow side by side……….
That's what the Royal Commission hopes to encourage by proceeding carefully, "minimising and managing risks."
There is no such guarantee available. If the Royal Commission had suggested confining inter-species genetic modification research and trials to offshore islands such as the Chathams or Kermadecs, perhaps its report might have been more acceptable.
As things stand, if the Government, as is likely, implements the Royal Commission's recommendations, it will undermine the best competitive advantage that New Zealand possesses; the image of a clean, green land.
That is an economic bonus worth billions of dollars already to this economy, even if our claim to the reputation is somewhat tenuous at times. A window of opportunity to enhance that clean, green and GE-free image appears to have closed.”

Steffan Browning says “Mr Burns editorial reflects the view of The Soil and Health Association of NZ.”

“Mr Burns does not defer from those opinions yet Labour will vote as a block on the NOOM Bill ushering in GE release into New Zealand’s environment.”

Steffan Browning says the government has to rethink its position quickly and ban GE release, joining the majority of New Zealanders including farmers that do not want it.

For further information:
Contact: Steffan Browning, Co-chair The Soil and Health Association of NZ ph: 03 5779494 / 021 172 5655 email: greeny25@xtra.co.nz

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