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7-Misc: GE protest in NZ - Eco terrorism or social responsibility?



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ECO TERRORISM OR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY?
From: "Clive Elwell" <jevans@thenet.co.nz> 
Clive Elwell
Friday 12/3/99

So the acts of "eco-terrorism" against genetically engineered crops have 
spread to New Zealand at last. Early on Thursday the "Wild Greens" pulled 
up a Crop and Food Research trial of genetically engineered potatoes 
planted at Lincoln. Today Ruakura Research Station is being guarded by 
security guards, who are stopping all cars. Security is being stepped up 
for the transgenic sheep at Mangakino.
Such destruction has become commonplace in Britain and other European 
countries. Also in India GE cotton crops have been torched by enraged 
farmers. The process has even begun in the home of GE, the US. In Britain 
it is not just extreme greenies who pull up crops; otherwise law abiding, 
ordinary, concerned citizens have participated in what they call "acts of 
social responsibility".
The Wild Green's spokesperson, Nandor Tanczos, is wrong in stating that 
GE trial crops have not gone through a legal regulatory process. But he 
is quite right in questioning if the NZ public can rely on this process 
to protect them and the environment from the dangers of genetic 
engineering. He is right in suggesting that the government regulatory 
agency concerned, Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), has not 
been impartial - we have seen ERMA staff appearing in public as active 
proponents of the technology they are supposed to be assessing.. And he 
is certainly correct when he says there has been insufficient debate 
about allowing GE technology into NZ at all. Issues that need to be 
debated in great detail, perhaps for years, were merely touched upon (if 
at all) at the half- day potato hearing in Wellington. It was a rushed 
affair, with submitters given no time to consider large amounts of 
written technical evidence presented by the applicants.
ERMA has stated that ethical issues will not be considered in their 
decision making process. And although a body was formed to represent 
Maori concerns, its recommendations were completely ignored. In its 
approval of all the trials it has so far considered ERMA has ignored the 
advice of eminent and neutrally positioned scientists like Professor 
Wills of Auckland University, and they have ignored the warnings of the 
Royal NZ College of General Practitioners. Their so-called risk 
assessment is contrary to a growing body of scientific evidence from 
overseas that the dangers are real and are enormous and their approvals 
are likely to have a detrimental effect on NZ agriculture. Farmers in the 
US and Canada are finding it more and more difficult to sell their GE 
produce, especially to Europeans increasingly concerned with the question 
of safety of GE foods. But Australia has just sold a record amount of 
Canola, at a record price, precisely because it is GE-free.
All the concerns expressed at the ERMA hearing on the GE potatoes have 
been confirmed by recent disclosures. Beneficial insects are being killed 
by GE crops. Herbicide tolerance has spread to neighbouring crops and 
weeds. Insect pests have developed resistance to the GE crops which were 
designed to kill them. And many commercially planted GE crops in the US 
are showing up with completely unexpected traits. It is not the precise 
technology we are led to believe.
Nandor is also right to point out that the GE potatoes he helped destroy, 
like all GE crops, contain antibiotic resistance genes. A Dutch scientist 
has just shown fairly conclusively that these can and do get transferred 
to the bacteria normally present in the human gut - with obviously huge 
implications for future health care. It must be understood that the GE 
"trials" in question are in no way trials of safety. They are simply 
preparations for commercial release and there is no attempt to even 
monitor the above hazards.
Like all the groups who are concerned about the untested nature of GE, 
the Wild Greens are calling for a moratorium on its use in NZ. Given the 
governmens unquestioning attitude towards GE technology, and its apparent 
acceptance of the health and environmental hazards - one wonders who 
deserves the label of eco-terrorist. It is likely we will see more direct 
action by environmentalists. Alan Simpson, a UK Labour MP who has been 
highly critical of his party's position on this technology, has this to 
say: "There are moments and issues in history where parliament is 
inadequate and it falls to the people themselves to act. With the case of 
genetic engineering and the granting of patents on life, I believe we 
have reached one of those historic moments".

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-| GENET
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
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