Major Doubts About GE Findings, Says Rural Leader
31 July 2001
“Forecasts of a Billion Dollar Windfall are Ludicrous”
A rural leader with more than 50 years of farming experience says it is absolutely vital that New Zealand remains environmentally free of GE organisms.
The Mayor of Hurunui District, John Chaffey, says the findings of the Royal Commission on Genetic modification could spell disaster for New Zealand’s two main export industries if research and experiments lead to uncontrolled use of modified plants and animals.
In contrast to comments from the major farming lobby group, Mayor Chaffey says the decision to allow field research and experiments could seriously undermine New Zealand’s image and threaten our international trade. He said contained experiments should be allowed to continue for medical research and developments that do not affect the food chain.
“The forecast of huge economic gains for New Zealand are completely unsubstantiated,” he said. “The first generation of GE foods have proven to be dismal failure and producers of GM foods are facing increasing resistance to their products.
“We need to acknowledge that the perception of GM foods in our major markets is largely negative, and while these fears exist we should prevent GM organisms from entering the food chain. If these perceptions change, then that will be the time to reconsider our position. In the meantime we have more to gain from protecting our international trading advantage, as a producer of unadulterated foods, while taking advantage of the exponential demand for organics.”
Mayor Chaffey said a community forum on GE on the Hurunui had revealed widespread interest in the implications for farming in the long term. “No farm producer seriously expects a bonanza from GE – just the overseas corporates.”
“The support for GM within some quarters of the primary production sector is an example of short term economic thinking. We need to be taking a much more long term view because there are still some major areas of uncertainty, such as the implications for our soils and pastures.
“New Zealand’s main export industries – tourism and agriculture – depend absolutely on our clean and green image. We are competing extremely well in international markets without GM, and by deciding to allow GM field research we are risking our key competitive advantage.”
Mayor Chaffey says while the Commission’s report was extremely thorough, it tended be influenced by stakeholders with a short term commercial view. He says the Government should take every possible step to ensure that New Zealand remains environmentally GE free.