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Public consultation favours genetic engineering

An official public lobbying campaign on genetic engineering which starts today is more biased than it makes out, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said.

Today the Government's Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council (IBAC) launched a major education programme which it hopes to feed to school children as well as adults.

"Although its literature is quite carefully worded and bland, it describes in a subtle way all the potential benefits of genetic engineering without focussing on risks," Ms Fitzsimons said. "An IBAC booklet out today purports to be a consultation paper, but none of the questions include the obvious one: `Do you want genetically engineered food to be grown in New Zealand?'"

"This council is likely to be replaced by an unbiased Royal commission of inquiry into genetic engineering after the election. Labour has already pledged to follow my call last year to set up such a body."

Ms Fitzsimons said pro-genetic engineering scientists and companies were becoming more astute at using front organisations, including official bodies, to push unwanted genetically engineered food and crops on ordinary people who did not want them.

It was sad that a few excellent members of IBAC seemed unaware that they were involved in such a process, she said. There was no doubt the genetic engineers on the body knew its real role.

"IBAC is not providing a forum for the public to debate and listen to both sides of the arguments. People are expected to respond to flimsy information in the booklet, and IBAC will do with it as it wants. Only a Royal commission of inquiry can provide unbiased answers on genetic engineering."

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