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Referendum on GE-free Option Govt's Best Antidote

Referendum on GE-free Option Is Government's Best Antidote to Protests

The Public will continue to demand legal protection for GE-free production in New Zealand and the government should hold a referendum on the issue or face endless protest.

Even a year on from the lapse of the moratorium on commercial GM-release more protesters are due to appear in court in after being arrested at Parliament during peaceful protest. Penny Bright and Steve Howell will be in the Wellington District Court today (Friday 29 October 2004) for the final stage of the case.

It is also the anniversary of the launch of the anti-GE Peoples Moratorium Enforcement Agency, (PMEA), whose representatives have recently toured the country.

"The issue of public concern has not gone away," says Jon Carapiet from GE free NZ in food and environment. "GE commercial release has huge implications for our nation.

"We do not want to see ordinary people protesting in the streets again. It's time the government either committed to protecting GE free production or held a referendum."

The Government should ensure "zero" tolerance and fund improved testing-regimes, for all at risk seeds to remove GE-contaminated seed. This supports New Zealand's economic interests and meets the desire of the public to protect our GE-free status in food and the environment. Those pushing for the zero-threshold to be abandoned are threatening New Zealand's economic wellbeing as even low-level contamination is a marketing and bio-security risk.

The recent case of Monsanto withholding results from animal trials to smooth approval of a GE corn also reveals the food-approval regime is flawed.

Particularly alarming is the absence of any protocols to allow recall of GE foods like Monsantos' MON 863 corn should they be later found to be harmful. Even low-level contamination for example by a pharmaceutical crop, puts the public health at risk.

Until the system can cope with complete segregation and containment, and until there is a national strategy focused on ethical uses of gene technology not requiring environmental release, GE release presents a real threat to New Zealand and the preservation of our options.

In the light of the problems that have arisen overseas there is no justification for external field-trials or commercial release.

It is clear organisations like NZFSA and ERMA must be legally required to preserve GE-free production as the Royal Commission on GM advised. Until this is done, backed by a referendum if need be- public concern will continue to grow.

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