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9-Misc: New Zealand's Green Party benefits as GMO debate grows



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TITLE:  NZ's Green Party benefits as GMO debate grows
SOURCE: Reuters, by Graeme Peters
DATE:   July 4, 2002

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NZ's Green Party benefits as GMO debate grows

WELLINGTON - New Zealand's Green Party, which could be a key power broker 
after this month's election, made further ground in opinion polls yesterday 
benefitting from its call to ban genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The 
party vowed in May to bring down any future government if it tries to lift 
a ban on the use of GMOs, putting it at loggerheads with the ruling Labour 
Party of Prime Minister Helen Clark which wants to lift the ban next year.

Opinion polls put Labour well ahead of the main opposition National Party, 
with the Greens, which has supported Labour on key issues, running third 
ahead of the July 27 general election. A New Zealand Herald-DigiPoll poll 
yesterday gave the Green Party 9.6 percent support, its highest level in 
the poll's five-year history and almost double the support the party 
received in other polls in April and May. The New Zealand Herald-DigiPoll 
had Labour at 51.2 percent support and National at 24.6 percent.

The Greens stance on banning GMOs is mirrored by a high-profile non-
partisan group of New Zealanders, including actor Sam Neill. Around two-
fifths of New Zealand's NZ$32.6 billion annual exports involve food, but 
anti-GMO activists say the country of 3.9 million people and 44 million 
sheep should market itself as clean, green, and free of GMOs. But 
scientists warn without GMO field trials New Zealand's food sector is 
likely to be left behind and big companies will move research activities 
offshore.


"RANSOM"

Reuters' four-poll moving average puts support for the Greens at 8.2 
percent, showing a gain of around three percentage points since it issued 
its GMO ultimatum. The centre-left Labour has remained steady at 52.8 
percent, a level that would give it an absolute majority if matched at the 
ballot box under New Zealand's German-style system of proportional 
representation.

Labour, which has 49 seats in the current parliament, has governed for 
three years in coalition with the left-wing Alliance Party, which has 10 
seats, with support from the Greens seven MPs on crucial votes. However, 
the Alliance has split leaving the Greens as the third party in the 120-
seat single chamber.

Both Labour and National have condemned the Greens GMO position. Clark says 
the Greens GMO policy has virtually ruled them out as a coalition partner 
for "holding to ransom" a future government.

Greens' co-leader Rod Donald says he hopes Labour will compromise. "For the 
period of the campaign we are going to have an impasse, but I expect we 
will all sit down and talk it through afterwards. Labour have left 
themselves some wiggle room on that issue," he said.

The newly formed non-partisan Sustainability Council of New Zealand is 
lobbying for the GMO ban to be extended by five years, said Neill, star of 
the "Jurassic Park" movies. "I would urge the present government and the 
incoming government to seriously reconsider this lifting of the moratorium, 
and to give the people of New Zealand time to consider and to debate this 
most critical of issues," Neill said in a videoed statement to a press 
briefing.



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