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GE Consultation risks going round in circles

GE Consultation risks going round in circles on issues of Liability and deliberately ignores lessons from overseas. Guaranteeing existence GE-free organisms is the true test of authority's credibility.

The MFE consultation document on the HSNO act, including "conditional release" of Genetically Modified Organisms, is setting New Zealand on a road to hell albeit paved with apparent 'good' intentions.

There are already signals that Authorities are deliberately ignoring evidence on GE contamination from overseas by even considering " conditional release". Co-existence of GE and Non-GE systems is becoming impossible.

"The idea of containing GM organisms through conditions on release is nonsense. Buffers have proved not to work, and beekeepers have found their honey contaminated by GE crops many kilometres away. We have international contamination of seeds and the food supply to the point where GE-free food cannot even be guaranteed. Those wanting to avoid GE technology are lumbered with a kind of "technology tax" in the form extra costs for segregation and labelling", says Jon Carapiet, a spokesperson for GE-Free NZ (in food and environment).

ERMA's and the Government's credibility are on the line because of their support for the notion of conditional release.

" They must think they are "Miracle workers" who are able to contain the spread of GE constructs, when nobody else in the world has been able to do so." says Mr Carapiet.

"There is clear evidence that the best strategic direction for Biotechnology in Aotearoa/ New Zealand is to pursue ethical applications in containment and leave our production systems GE-Free".

"Maintaining the supply of GE-free organisms- including GE-Free food-will be the true test of authority's credibility. So far they are failing: already GE-free products are under threat".

Of major concern is the discussion on Liability that appears to be going around in circles. There has already been a detailed report on Liability from Chen and Palmer following the Royal Commission's initial review. The Crown Law Office has also compiled a major report indicating the need for legislative reform relating to GM Liability. Yet the consultation document states the Ministry has " not formed a view about liability and are not proposing any changes".

" It is time the government took action to end the public's subsidy of the biotechnology industry. Biotech companies want to patent GE organisms but will not accept liability for damage. They are side-stepping a normal cost of doing business, which is also a vital moderating influence " says Jon Carapiet.

The consultation document is expected to raise widespread concern because of other indicators of government thinking.

" They are talking about 'Pharming' herds of GE cows to produce pharmaceuticals but are ignoring contamination at the micro-biological level. They are considering 'Terminator' genes that make seeds barren without mention that bees will still take theGE pollen to their hives," says Mr Carapiet.

However, the consultation also signals the possibility of positive moves to improve biosecurity. Funding for enforcement of existing laws may be increased. The Ministerial powers allowing GE applications to be "called in" will also be reviewed, as will the length of time allowed to ERMA to consider applications, and to mount prosecutions for breaches of the law.

" It is not all bad, but the outcome will be more of a credibility-test for this government than even the Royal Commission. The issues are of international importance," says Mr Carapiet," and the world is watching."

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