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VegFed goes down wrong track on GE potatoes

A move by the Vegetable and Potato Growers' Federation (VegFed) to fund work on genetically engineered potatoes is sending the wrong message internationally, Green Party Agriculture Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street said today.

Mr Ewen-Street, in Wellington to launch his party's agriculture and rural affairs policy, said the GE potato funding is mentioned in VegFed's latest annual report, but most vegetable growers would have no idea their levies were going into such research.

"I am particularly disappointed as VegFed, outside its potato sector, has been keen to promote organics and has also recently launched a `Green Cuisine' campaign which promotes fresh and healthy food," Mr Ewen-Street said.

"This GE sponsorship is a slap in the face as well for organic growers, especially potato growers, who under the Commodity Levies Act have to fund VegFed, but who at the same time are striving for a clean, green, GE-free image," he said.

The annual report does not give details on the exact funding of the research, or of what genes are being added to potatoes, although it does say the work is to combat potato tuber moth. Hundreds of lines of genetically modified potatoes and other vegetables are being grown by a Crown Research Institute, Crop and Food Research, in Canterbury.

The Green Party is calling for an "Organic Nation" by the year 2020. This means having half of New Zealand's production certified organic and GE-free by 2020, and the remainder in the process of conversion. One of the aims of this is to meet the burgeoning worldwide demand for organic produce, which attracts high premiums.

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