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9-Misc: Strong public support for zero tolerance to GM contamination in New Zealand

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Strong Public Support for Zero Tolerance to GM Contamination
SOURCE: The Sustainability Council, New Zealand
DATE:   17 Aug 2005

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Strong Public Support for Zero Tolerance to GM Contamination

79% New Zealanders would support the current policy of zero tolerance to
GM contamination of seed imports. Polling conducted for the
Sustainability Council by DigiPoll also found 77% support for zero
tolerance to GM contamination of crops in the field, once informed that
this too is the current policy.

Public opinion is thus squarely in line with the needs of New Zealand
exporters whose markets demand food free of GM content - however that
contamination may arise. Though the current incident involved
contamination of soy that was not grown in New Zealand, two points stand
out from this experience.

The first is that this is a type of "supply chain" incident that is well
documented overseas. While there are ways of minimising the chances of GM
contamination occurring during transport and storage, the risk of such
incidents was a key reason the Australian Wheat Board successfully
opposed commercial production there of an entirely separate crop - GM canola.

This current incident shows how any decision to permit GM food production
in New Zealand would open up new sources of risks extending far beyond
the company growing a GMO. It would raise costs and marketing risks for a
much wider set of food producers.

The second point is that New Zealand still has quite inadequate systems
for border detection of GM contamination and the source of this incident
could have been very different. MAF is admirably thorough in chasing down
contamination once it is shown to be present. However, there has been
very limited reform of border detection systems since the breach last
year and the review this triggered.

MAF's current test for imported seed uses such a small sample size that
around 5% of the time, the single test required will not show up GMOs at
concentrations of 0.1% or less. New Zealand food producers that are
serious about detecting GM content use between two and fifteen times the
sample size MAF requires. Trebling the number of seeds used would reduce
from 5% to 1% the chances of the border test missing GM contamination at
a level of 0.1%.

Other low cost priorities for reform include:

- Designing model quality assurance procedures - that importers can use
to track all stages of seed breeding and transport.

- Improving incentives - by ensuring the costs arising from contaminated
seeds rest with the importing party in the first instance.

MAF can best protect vulnerable food producers and align with public
opinion by making far better use of low cost border protection options.

DigiPoll Survey Questions

Question 1: "New Zealand currently does not allow any GM contamination to
be present in imported seeds. Should New Zealand continue this zero
tolerance policy?"

Response: Yes: 78.8%; No: 15.3%; Don't know: 5.9%.

Question 2: "New Zealand currently does not allow any GM contamination to
be present in crops grown in the field. Should New Zealand also continue
this zero tolerance policy?"

Response: Yes: 77.2%; No: 16.1%; Don't know: 6.7%.

Both polls were conducted in early August 2005, have a sample size of 500
and a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  75% Support NZ Remaining a GM Free Food Producer
SOURCE: The Sustainability Council, New Zealand
DATE:   16 Aug 2005

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75% Support NZ Remaining a GM Free Food Producer

Three quarters of New Zealanders would support the nation's food
production remaining GM Free.

A poll conducted this month for the Sustainability Council by DigiPoll
resulted in 74.5% supporting New Zealand's food production remaining GM
Free, once informed there is currently no commercial production of GM
food in this country. This compares to 70.1% support when the same
question was put during the heat of the moratorium debate two years ago.

Polling has also shown a lack of public confidence in the regulation of
GMOs. In particular, the work of ERMA - the Government agency responsible
for assessing whether any GMO should be released into the environment.
Those who did not have confidence in ERMA to regulate GMOs (45%)
outnumbered those who did (40%). These results, from a poll conducted for
ERMA in March, were obtained by the Sustainability Council under the
Official Information Act.

The high level of support for New Zealand remaining a GM Free Food
Producer is striking because the profile of the GM debate has not been as
high in the last eighteen months as in 2003. Most notably, there have not
been any applications to release a GMO since the moratorium was lifted.

Research into the outdoor use of GMOs has however been continuing apace
with projects in New Zealand to develop GM varieties of: vegetables,
grasses, milk products, and plants producing pharmaceuticals. Substantial
investments are being made in these projects in the expectation that at
some stage GM products will be allowed out of containment.

With these future decision points in mind, it is important that each
political party makes clear its position on the outdoor use of GMOs. In
particular, would it support New Zealand remaining a GM Free Food
Producer during the term of the next Parliament?

Even if the public had full confidence in the regulatory framework, ERMA
is only allowed to consider applications "case by case". Yet GM food
production is a major national policy decision. For a country that earns
half its export income from food, this is a fundamental branding and
marketing call in addition to raising a host of other strategic issues.
National policy decisions should not be delegated to ERMA, so political
parties need to have policies that address the strategic question of
whether New Zealand is to remain a GM Free Food Producer.

The Sustainability Council is pro-science and sees potential in the use
of genetic modification in medicine. However the Council believes New
Zealand should remain a GM Free Food Producer at least until there is
clear acceptance of GM products in key export markets, and sufficient
research has been undertaken on the environmental effects of GMOs to
properly assess their impact in New Zealand.

Poll Details

GM Free Food Producer Poll

Question: "While genetic modification is being used in medicine and
research, there is no commercial production of genetically modified food
in this country. Should New Zealand's food production remain GM free?"


Aug 2003 (Colmar Brunton): Yes: 70.1%; No: 18.2%; Don't know: 11.7%.

Aug 2005 (DigiPoll): Yes: 74.5%; No: 18.3%; Don't know: 7.2%.

Both polls have a sample size of 500 and a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.
(A breakdown of the 2005 result shows a very close match of urban and
rural figures which can otherwise be a source of sampling uncertainty.)

ERMA Confidence Poll

Feb/Mar 2005 (BRC)

Question: "How confident are you in the ability of the Authority to
regulate GMOs in New Zealand?"


Very confident: 9%, Confident: 31% Total =40%

Not Particularly Confident: 25%, Not at all Confident: 20% Total =45%

Don't know/refused: 15%

The research was conducted for ERMA by BRC and the sample of 288 was
drawn from the full sample of 1000 used for the omnibus survey that the
question was a part of. Selection was made on the basis of respondents
who "indicated they had knowledge of ERMA as an organisation".

A margin of error is not listed.


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