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Swiss sail ahead with 'GE-free' vote

Swiss sail ahead with 'GE-free' vote ; NZ farmers urged to follow

As well as leading the world in competitive sailing the Swiss are set to lead the way for GE-Free agriculture after Farmers voted to support a 5 year moratorium on GE agriculture in Switzerland.

The decision by the Swiss Farmers Union to back a referendum for a 5-year moratorium on GE releases shows that both consumers and farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits and opportunities for GE-Free food production.

"We hope New Zealand farmers will take heed of what their colleagues in Europe are doing" says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ (in food and environment).

"Even if bodies like Federated Farmers are supportive of GE release, there is growing evidence that it will damage our economy and international marketing image as well as pollute conventional agricultural systems".

GE-Free NZ believe the New Zealand government can and must preserve the opportunities identified by the Royal Commission by keeping applications of Genetic Modification in containment, and only allowing ethical uses. " This will keep our food and environment GE-free while still benefiting from the knowledge of genetics our scientists are developing. We do not need to release GE organisms with antibiotic marker genes and viral promoters.

Even companies like Monsanto are accepting safer GE techniques such as assisted gene marking to help cross-breed the best stock without genetically engineering them," says Mr Carapiet.

The Swiss moratorium is likely to will be put to a vote later this year but a similar vote in new Zealand is not yet on the cards.

" I am not sure the New Zealand government need to bother with a referendum on a 5-year moratorium. It is obvious that a moratorium is needed based on the scientific evidence emerging over the last few years. The Royal Commission showed most people want to protect our GE-Free option. If the government go for commercial GE release they will destroy that option step by step, case by case", says Mr Carapiet.

"What is needed is legislation to prevent GE release and preserve our opportunities. This is what the country will be looking for in the coming months when the Government releases its Biotechnology strategy and when MAF announce how they will manage "Co-existence" to ensure New Zealand's seed, soil, honey and food exports stay clean of GE contamination.

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