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9-Misc: Survey shows New Zealand's farmers cautious about GM

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Survey shows NZ farmers cautious about GM
SOURCE: Newsquest, posted by LifeScienceNetwork, Australia/New Zealand
DATE:   May 16, 2003

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Survey shows NZ farmers cautious about GM

New Zealand farmers remain cautious about the use of genetically
engineered (GE) organisms in New Zealand, according to a new Lincoln
University study reported in the Christchurch Press.

Half of the New Zealand farmers surveyed believe the Government's
moratorium on genetically engineered corps and livestock, and other
organisms, should be extended beyond October.

The moratorium on the commercial release of GE organisms is due to be
lifted in October.

In the study by the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln a
random sample of 2240 farmers were posted questionnaires, and 805 responded.

The authors of the study are John Fairweather, Crystal Maslin, Peter
Gossman, and Hugh Campbell.

While only about 33 percent supported using GE crops or animals for human
or animal food production, considerably more farmers were happy with
medical applications and there was strong support for GE activities that
could be contained in laboratories.

Half of farmers believed the spread of engineered genes from crops and
livestock could not be controlled, but more than 40 per cent believed the
technology might cure the world's major diseases and solve the world's
food problems.

Put simply, when faced with the possibility of GE organisms, the majority
of farmers were neither strongly opposed nor keen to adopt them, the
authors said.

The majority of New Zealand farmers (nearly 60 percent) intended to farm
conventionally, while nearly 20 percent intend to use GE crops and
animals, and nearly 20 percent intended to use organic methods.

The farmers intending to use GE organisms were typically male, with less
formal education, and reporting high levels of farm incomes, the authors
said. Those planning organic farming were more formally educated, one
quarter were female, and they reported the lowest incomes.

Those who intend to keep farming conventionally were generally between
the other two groups in income and formal education.

The report showed that farmers intending to use GE crops and animals were
strongly centred in the dairy industry.

Most conventional farmers had shown no significant shift towards either
GE or organic technologies over two years.

"Farmers are clearly confronting `greening' issues within the context of
their existing production systems, and have not experienced a significant
enough crisis in production to feel that either alternative is necessary
yet," the authors said.

Sustainability Council chairman Sir Peter Elworthy, who has opposed the
use of GE organisms for food production outside contained laboratories,
said it was significant that only one fifth of farmers intended to use
the technology over the next decade.

"Yet the majority 80 percent are unlikely to find adequate protection
from contamination by GE farmers," he said in a statement.

The Government had acknowledged that controls could only limit the spread
of engineered DNA and not eliminate contamination of conventional and
organic farming.

"Farmer choice under the Government's proposed co-existence strategy will
be limited to being a GE farmer or a GE-contaminated farmer."

If a minority of farmers used GE crops and animals, it was likely
affluent markets would tar all New Zealand farmers with the same brush.

"Non-GE farmers will be contaminated by mere association," he said.

The BERL report on the economic risk and opportunities of GE release,
published last month, had indicated between 20 percent and 30 percent of
overseas consumers stated they would stop buying New Zealand products
altogether if any GE release occurred.

Sir Peter said New Zealand had already been targeted by international GE
seed companies as a site to bulk up seed supplies for North America and
Europe during the northern hemisphere winter.

The NZ farmers that took up these contracts would not have to worry about
consumers, because they would be supplying the biotech companies
themselves, but their GE crops would potentially affect all other farmers.

But Federated Farmers spokesman on genetic modification issues Neil
Barton said that when Federated Farmers had surveyed its members on the
issue three years ago it had found views were right across the spectrum.

"That's one of the reasons we make it clear we wanted farmers to make
individual decisions.

"If anything the farming community is a little more relaxed about it (GE)
than it was then, because commercial production of GE commodity crops is
extremely unlikely in New Zealand."

The main genetically modified commodity crops grown overseas are cotton,
canola, soya beans and maize. Small-scale, high-value genetically
engineered crops for the biotechnology industry were more likely in New
Zealand, he said.

"We believe there are some real opportunities for New Zealand in the
production of pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals."

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Controversial RMA clauses still in Bio-tech Bill
SOURCE: New Zealand National Party, Press Release
DATE:   May 14, 2003

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Controversial RMA clauses still in Bio-tech Bill

The controversial clauses that forced this week's embarrassing Government
back down on the RMA must now be removed from the New Organisms and Other
Matters Bill, according to the National Party. "This piece of legislation
now requires substantial change to avoid it becoming a regulatory
nightmare like the Resource Management Act," says National Party Science
spokesman, Dr Paul Hutchison. "National is urging United Future Party to
do for the 'New Organisms Bill' what it did for the RMA and force Labour
to remove confusing phases relating to cultural and spiritual effects.
"The Government's biotechnology taskforce hopes for a $10 billion
industry in ten years, and insists 'that New Zealand has a world class
regulatory system that is quick and cost efficient'. But Dr Hutchison is
alarmed that in New Zealand ERMA can process the 'science' of research
applications in six weeks, yet the 'bioethics' issues may take six months
to infinity. "Australia processes research applications with minimal cost
and within six months, including public consultation. "It is a huge worry
to the industry's aspirations when the CEO of Therapeutics NZ says 'while
each and every ERMA application for transgenic herd productions is
subject to public debate, investments by biotech companies will dry up
and wither away'. In Parliament today Dr Hutchison in Parliament today
called on the Minister of the Environment to apply the same logic when
she removed the words 'cultural landscape' and 'spiritual resources' from
the RMA, to the New Organisms Bill. "But the Minister is refusing to take
any action, despite the serious concerns and the well canvassed failings
of the RMA," says Dr Hutchison.