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Defeat of GE Moratorium Bill Threatens Biotech

Defeat of GE Moratorium Bill Threatens Biotech Future

The vote in Parliament against reinstating the GE moratorium is bad news for biotechnology proponents and New Zealand as a whole, and could put the country on track for civil unrest.

The vote threatens to undermine promotion of biotechnology through a $150 million investment fund announced last week because it signals to the New Zealand public that ethical constraints on the technology, including containment of GE organisms and acceptance of full liability are being subverted.

"Public acceptance of ethical uses of biotechnology will be undermined by the push for GE release in New Zealand," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"Any investment in GE that does not meet basic ethical standards, that is forced on people, or has long-term impacts on the environment and New Zealand's clean-green brand is doomed to failure. Investment must be focussed on contained applications and using our understanding of genomics to' work with the grain of nature' as Prince Charles once put it".

There are fears public rejection of even ethical applications will increase if investors and the Government continue to ignore the New Zealand public in the rush for profits. It is vital the $150 million is not mis-directed into inappropriate projects that go against community values and the national interest.

ERMA (the Environmental Risk Management Agency) admits that the widespread public sentiment against GE release- including within Maori- makes civil unrest likely if any such release is imposed on the New Zealand public.

Public opposition to release is also supported by the scientific community in New Zealand, according to the findings of a recent MORST-funded study "Hands Across the Water". ERMA is struggling to rebuild dialogue with community groups and scientists who have been boycotting the organisation because of its flawed approach to regulation.

Since the original moratorium lapsed there has been a de facto moratorium in New Zealand with no applications for full environmental release and more and more evidence of GE failure overseas.

The People's Moratorium Enforcement Agency has also been established to give voice to the concerns of the majority of New Zealanders who support a moratorium on release, accept ethical uses of GE in full containment, and oppose GE commercial release to protect the National interest.

Biotech investors will need to work hard to reassure the public their projects are indeed ethical and safe, or risk Public rejection and market failure.

Reference: Reported Vote in Parliament:

A party vote was called for on the question, That the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Genetically Modified Organisms Moratorium Reinstatement) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. Ayes 25 New Zealand First 13; Green Party 9; Progressive 2; Maori Party 1. Noes 95 New Zealand Labour 51; New Zealand National 27; ACT New Zealand 9; United Future 8.

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