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Death knell for NZ's quality primary production

GE Free NZ
Press Release 30.7.01

Death knell for NZ's quality primary production and unique biodiversity.

New Zealand public opinion ignored, commission fails to provide leadership or vision. GE Free New Zealand calls for public referendum.

New Zealand's quality GE Free agricultural production and exports have been put at risk worldwide, today, by the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Their report will add impetus to the push by the US, Canada and Australia to allow contamination of food world wide, threatening a death knell, not only to the organic industry in New Zealand, but also to conventionally grown GE Free foods world wide.

To go ahead with field trials will signal to other countries that our produce is no longer 'clean and green' removing options of a $500 million dollar organics industry and severely impacting on our quality exports. Field trials in New Zealand cannot be seen to avoid risks to the wider environment. GE Free New Zealand have some doubt that the letter of the law (the HSNO Act) has been followed with regard to release of GMO trials into the environment to date. Certainly the case of over 100 unauthorised experiments in our institutions and CRI's last year indicated an apparent disregard for the details of the Environmental Risk Management Authority requirements. No breach of requirements has ever yet lead to prosecution.

"Our question to government is are they accountable? To proceed with 'extreme caution' in the face of such undeniable risk to public health, economy and sustainable environment is foolhardy. Both local authorities and government should be aware of the irreversible contamination likely from continuing with this untested and inherently unsafe technology," said Susie Lees of GE Free NZ. "Nelson city council recently took a visionary step by accepting that the majority of Nelson residents supported a GE Free status. It is our belief that with the continuation of field trials more councils will opt to go GE Free."

Our national food supply has already been contaminated with imported processed GE ingredients, as a result of the deceitful procedures regarding the safety of GE foods. Regulatory agencies around the world have trivialised and minimised the risks despite mounting evidence and the concerns of eminent scientists. A lack of CODEX worldwide mandatory labelling regulations, has been fuelled by lobbying and delaying tactics by first world nations to avoid any labelling regime.

Since their own agricultural products are now contaminated, they fear continued reduced world market demand for their genetically modified agricultural produce. Major EU food corporations and fast food chains have also begun to remove all GE corn and soya from their animal feed already - 25% of all EU animal feed is GE Free. The US has lost $400 million a year in corn exports to the EU, whilst Canada has lost exports of canola, many countries boycotting its import.

Sweetcorn seeds, not been guaranteed GE Free, from these countries, are already on the shelves at stores around New Zealand, leaving householders open to contamination. New Zealand is one of the only countries left in the world with a golden opportunity to produce GE Free seeds and produce for the rest of the world.

An interim moratorium is required to allow proper evaluation of recommendations, the RCI advice suggests a biotechnology commissioner and bio-ethics council should be implemented before further government decisions are considered. This is critical since adverse effects of genetic engineering are irreversible. Opportunities are purported to be there for all, but organic and GE crops cannot co-exist. In light of the lack of proper research, 2 three-year studies by CSIRO in Australia, just begun, will assess both the likelihood of successful separation zones and the environmental impact of GE crops on commercial crops.

98% of public submissions did not approve of the continuation of this technology in respect to GE foods and the release of GMO's into our environment. We trust that our government will support its people in their intentions, if the public are continually ignored then a referendum may well be the only way to properly determine New Zealander's feelings.

For more information contact Susie Lees 03 546 7966 Zelka Grammer 09 432 2155 Jon Muller 025 794195

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