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Minister Must Reject Unethical Research

Mon, 14 Feb 2005

Minister Must Reject Unethical Research on Terminator Seeds or Resign.

Comments from The Minister of the Environment supporting research on Terminator technology shows the New Zealand government is willing to force its moral values on the rest of the world and lacks an ethical framework for its policy. At the same time the Minister's excuses that Terminator should proceed "case by case" shows she and her advisors have become removed from civil societal values that the rest of the international community holds.

GE Free NZ (in food and environment) are calling on the Minister to unequivocally support international agreement for a moratorium on trials of Terminator genes in food. If the Minister cannot support a moratorium on Terminator seeds and show respect for the international community she must resign.

Marian Hobbs claims the international community's call for the ethics of Terminator research to be discussed before allowing trials are "premature". On the contrary: it is her attempt to push ahead with such trials that are premature. She has seriously misjudged the depth of local and international concern on this issue .

"It's like New Zealand supporting nuclear testing in the atmosphere on a case by case basis and forcing it on the rest of the world," says Jon Carapiet of GE Free New Zealand in food and environment. New Zealand will be seen as 'wreckers' at the conference in Bangkok where our representatives were involved in the Canadian-led plan to scupper the agreement for a moratorium which will allow the ethical and social threats of Terminator seeds- especially in food - to be assessed.

The New Zealand government mustexpect widespread international protest for our stance at the conference even though the attempt appears to have stalled. "The Terminator seed concept raised terror in the public consciousness when proposed in the 1990's and even the biotechnology industry said it would stop," says Mr. Carapiet. Now a New Zealand Minister is foisting her own inadequate moral judgements on the rest of the world."

GE Free NZ has also called on the Prime Minister and other cabinet-members to intervene to ensure New Zealand respects international efforts to understand the social, cultural and ethical issues of the Terminator gene before the research proceeds.

If the Minister is so blinded by her obsession with forcing this particular scientific experiment on the international community, she must step down. "Humanity has the right to pause at the threshold and ask the big questions -not just blunder in," says Mr Carapiet.

REFERENCE: The Ministers Press Statement:

Hon Marian Hobbs 10 February 2005

NZ supports case-by-case assessment

New Zealand has no firm view on the merits of new organisms involving seed sterilisation technology but supports their case-by-case assessment rather than a blanket ban, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

The topic is being discussed at an international conference in Bangkok on the Convention on Biological Diversity, where a group of technical experts have reported on the use of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies or seed sterilisation technologies. Marian Hobbs rejected a call from GE Free NZ and the Green Party for New Zealand to support a ban on field tests for "terminator genes" raised in the report.

"Our understanding is that the scientific experts involved in drafting the report could not agree," Marian Hobbs said. "In the absence of consensus we find it to difficult to believe a ban is the right path to follow.

"We consider applications for use of technologies such as this should be assessed on their merits because there is the potential for positive environmental effects.

"As noted by the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification in their 2001 report: 'the use of sterility technology in commercial forestry trees should be investigated, as it has the potential to reduce pollen production with its associated allergenicity problems and prevent wild pine escape. However, a full assessment, based on field trials, of the effects of genetically modified sterility on the ecology of the forest would be required.'

"There are no plants produced using seed sterilisation technologies in commercial use anywhere and speculation about their possible impact is premature.

"New Zealand's Hazardous Substances and New Organisms regime provides for a rigorous assessment of the effects of all new organisms, including genetically modifed organisms.

"We regard this framework as an example for other countries, with concerns of GURTS, to establish an evidence-based system to assess impacts and manage risks of all new organisms - whether those risks be social, environmental or economic."


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