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3 New Reports back BERL warning

3 New Reports back BERL warning on economic threat from GE

On the eve of the government's introduction to Parliament of legislation allowing GE release from October, three international studies show that that government policy is taking New Zealand in the wrong direction.

A new report published in the Economist and a study by MORI- a leading European research company- support the warning to government that New Zealand risks serious economic harm from the spread of GE organisms into the food chain if commercial release is allowed from October.

"The worse-case scenario of a 20% consumer-discount on GM leading to a 43% shortfall in primary-industry returns is looking alarmingly closer to reality than the government had hoped, based on the new data," says Jon Carapiet, from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

The Eurobarometer report published in the Economist shows growing and widespread rejection of GE food by consumers in the countries about to join the existing EU states where GM foods have been strongly opposed.

"The very people Helen Clark is meeting with in Europe today are saying they don't want GE food, at the same time as saying they do want New Zealand food that is GE-free. Even Trade NZ representatives in the region are telling the Government our policy needs to reflect that," says Mr Carapiet.

The MORI poll (see below) was released on 28 April and shows continued opposition to GM in the UK. The study finds rejection is strong across all income and education-levels, and across the political spectrum, with just 14% "in favour" of GE foods.

A further 25 % are neutral but their uncertainty may presage even greater consumer rejection of GE foods as more evidence emerges that GE releases deny people the choice to eat GE-free foods and irreversibly contaminate the environment. Evidence from surveys including those undertaken by the Royal Commission and HortResearch in New Zealand, suggest the more informed people are about the issue the more concerned they are.

"This is a wake-up call for Government to urgently review its policy to drop the moratorium on commercial GM release in New Zealand.

The main problem is the lack of political will to look at the reality rather than simply accepting the propaganda of vested interests in industry, who do not have the national interest at heart," says Mr Carapiet.

A third report from the Economic Research Service of the USDA, also shows consumers' willingness to pay for food products decreases, when the food label indicates that it is produced with the aid of GE. In particular, under all information treatments, consumers discounted food items labelled "GM" by an average of 14 percent. Gender, income, and other demographic characteristics appeared to have only a slight impact on consumers' responses.

"The USDA study shows that scientific information may be able to overcome a segment of the community's resistance to GE foods. However, given that independent scientists and organizations like the British Medical Association warn the world about the unmanaged risks of genetic engineering, there is little hope that communicating the true scientific picture will do anything to help reduce rejection of GE food," says Mr Carapiet.

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