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Govt. pours $15 to 20 million more into GE

The Government has put $15-20 million of extra taxpayer money into genetic engineering for the 1999-2000 funding year, despite official concern about some GE work, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

Ms Fitzsimons said the money, from the Government's Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (so-called public good science funding), had gone into a wide range of genetic engineering projects. While a few projects had little in the way of environmental or health concerns, most seemed to be food-oriented.

"This extra funding comes despite the Government's Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council's recent recommendation for a moratorium on commercial releases of genetically engineered crops, and concerns expressed in August by the Environmental Risk Management Authority about GE experiments in the South Island of canola and salmon."

Ms Fitzsimons said while she and her staff had gone through as much public information as possible about the genetic engineering applications, she could not be more precise about the total figure because so much GE funding was hidden in research applications. (However the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology has confirmed 1999-2000 funding is similar to the $17-$18 million spent on genetic engineering last year.)

She said she was particularly surprised by more than one and a quarter million dollars going into continued genetic engineering of apples and kiwifruit by HortResearch despite firm commitments by the kiwifruit and apple producer boards this year that they would not grow or market such fruit.

"It seems scientists are going ahead madly with their GE projects, despite there being no market, hoping consumer resistance to genetically engineered fruit will disappear," Ms Fitzsimons said. "I also cannot understand why this money is being spent while our organic growers can't meet the international demand for their produce and are crying out for research and development funds." The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is a statutory authority reporting to Research, Science and Technology Minister Maurice Williamson. It is responsible for about 60 percent of the public expenditure on research and development in New Zealand, investing approximately $310 million annually "in line with policies and priorities set by the Government" according to its brief.


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