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In Dark Over Cross-Species Genetic Engineering

27 August 2002

Over Half Of New Zealanders Left In The Dark Over Cross-Species Genetic Engineering

Research undertaken by HortResearch has revealed that over half of New Zealanders do not know that cross-species genetic engineering is possible- let alone already being carried out in New Zealand.

The study shows that the Public have been left in the dark about transgenics despite the debate during the Royal Commission. The finding raises concerns that the lack of community understanding of the GE process and its potential to cross the species barrier has left New Zealanders vulnerable to exploitation and misinformation by sectors of the Biotechnology industry.

The final report from HortResearch entitled "New Zealand Public's Attitudes Regarding GM food" has just been issued (July 2002), though earlier release of findings prompted criticism that questions in the study were flawed and potentially misleading.

The report shows: „h 55% of people did not know 'it is possible to transfer animal genes into plants' „h Only 15% were able to answer basic questions about genes and GE correctly „h Despite the title and objectives of the survey, people were never asked for their views on consuming transgenic GE food.

There is concern that basic questions were not asked and other questions were asked without informing the respondents about the modification process involved, casting doubt on the validity of the findings and the study's conclusions.

The report adds weight to concerns that government backing for release of GE technology into the food chain and environment is based on misinformation and is proceeding without community support or consensus.

" Half the public are being cut out of the debate and are unable to contribute to the debate on ethics, science, liability or even make their own choices about GE foods because they have not been informed that GE can cross the species barrier," says Jon Carapiet, a spokesperson for GE-Free NZ (in food and environment). "Transgenics are a defining issue in the debate about the immorality of how GE food is being imposed".

"The government has a moral duty to hold back on lifting the moratorium on GE release until more of the public have been given the information to make judgements. Otherwise government is simply colluding with biotech industry deception," says Mr Carapiet.

One of the findings in the HortResearch study is that MAF and Greenpeace are trusted sources of information.

"The Government should fund the debate in the public-interest. There needs to be funding for education that is not biotech propaganda in disguise. The biotech industry are pushing on in the full knowledge that the Public simply don't know what industry are doing. That may suit them but it is totally undemocratic," says Mr Carapiet.

Ends

Contact Jon Carapiet - 09 815 3370

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