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Studies into US GE must prompt Govt rethink

Studies into US experience with GE must prompt rethink of Government plans for GE agriculture or risk disaster for NZ farmers.

Studies into the impact of GM in agriculture by the US government USDA and the UK Soil Association serve as a serious warning to the government that their policy to commercial GE release from October next year could be an economic as well as an environmental disaster for New Zealand.

Because the warning is coming from a US government agency and the farmers themselves, the evidence cannot be dismissed by the Life Science Industry lobby who have been pushing for the spread of GM products into other countries.

These overseas findings put a dark cloud over the government's GE strategy. They show that new evidence since the Royal Commission must be incorporated into policy or New Zealand will have similar contamination of conventional produce, and loss of markets.

The new Soil Association audit shows that claims for GE increasing yields are untrue and that yields for major GE crops were lower than for conventional varieties. The USDA report revealed that the economic arguments for GE crops do not stand up to scrutiny and indicates that biotech marketing-spin may have been the real reason why farmers in Canada and the US adopted GE crops at all.

However, both the USDA study, and the new Soil Association audit shows American farmers are now paying dearly for adopting the technology, with a collapse in export sales and widespread contamination by GE constructs in conventional and organic crops like canola (rapeseed).

"The Royal Commission on GM already warned that some GE crops (like the heavily-marketed Round-Up Ready crops from Monsanto), have no benefits for New Zealand," says Jon Carapiet, from GE-Free NZ (in food and environment).

" These new reports must be a wake-up call to the politicians. The US and Canadian farmers have been hit by the reality that not only are yields lower, superweeds emerging, and conventional agriculture becoming contaminated by GE constructs, but their export markets do not want the stuff."

Briefing papers from ERMA to the post-election government also show that Authorities are ill-equipped to address the many issues surrounding GE, including community concerns about ethics and the right to choose GM-Free produce.

"ERMA and MAF seem to be warning the government that the October 2003 deadline for sorting out liability, scientific issues such as HGT, segregation of crops and regional GM-Free zones is an impossible target to achieve," says Mr. Carapiet.

" The findings make the Labour government's policy to allow approval of commercial GE release untenable in terms of science, economics and ethics," he says.

"Does the government want NZ farmers to suffer the same fate as North American farmers by allowing GE release here?"

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