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Lifting of G.M. Moratorium

Lifting of G.M. Moratorium

"The lifting of the moratorium on genetic modification will place native flora and fauna at risk", that is the view of Dr Leonie Pihama, the Director of the International Research Institute for Maori and Indigenous Education at The University of Auckland.

Dr Pihama has recently returned from an Indigenous knowledge conference in Michigan.

A keynote presenter at the conference was Winona La Duke who was the Vice Presidential candidate for the Green Party alongside Ralph Nader in the last American Presidential campaign. La Duke, a highly respected Native American activist and environmentalist, called for a moratorium on genetic research on wild rice.

La Duke emphasised that wild rice must be protected from manipulation and that universities that currently hold genetic materials must adhere to a moratorium by 2004 to safeguard the future existence of wild rice.

"We must take a similar stand here to safeguard our native plants, foods and animals, for future generations" stated Dr Pihama, who continued "Research undertaken by our Institute on Maori views of genetic engineering clearly shows that our people are strongly critical of the lack of government recognition of our rights as Treaty partner to protect ourselves from such forms of manipulation".

Dr Pihama is also a member of the Maori women's organisation 'Nga Wahine Tiaki o Te Ao', one of the few Maori voices at the hearings of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification.

"The Commission process was a farce. A very small number of Mäori organisations were granted status to be heard, which again flies in the face of the governments Treaty obligations".

Another member of 'Nga Wahine Tiaki o Te Ao', Glenis Philip-Barbara also commented that the current position of the government is yet another breach of the Treaty. "We are grappling with a Labour government that is going to lift a moratorium against the wishes of not only Maori but of the majority of New Zealanders" said Ms Philip-Barbara.

Furthermore, she adds, "the risk to this land and its people is at the forefront of our concerns and we must not allow this government to endanger ourselves and future generations by engaging a science that is still largely untested and unproven to be safe".

As an alternative for Maori Ms Philip-Barbara states "we must call upon whanau, hapu and iwi to protect their lands by refusing the entry of all forms of genetic modification into their territories".

To do this Ms Philip-Barbara calls upon whanau, hapu and iwi to send a clear message to the government and prospective investors, that they are not welcome on their lands, noting "there are ways that we can take control back as Maori and we need to make it clear to this government that they should not take for granted the Maori vote at the next elections, especially with how they are treating us in regard to key issues like genetic modification and the foreshore debate".

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