GENET archive


POLICY & REGULATION: GM fight still rages 20 years on in New Zealand

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: TVNZ, New Zealand

AUTHOR: ONE News, New Zealand


DATE:   29.11.2008

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Twenty years after the first genetically modified crops (GM) were planted in New Zealand, the fight over so called ?Frankenstein food? is still raging.

GM crop trials have been allowed since 1988 but it was not until the moratorium was lifted in 2003, amid loud protest, that applications could be made to grow GM plants commercially.

But so-far no New Zealand companies have gone down that path.

This is partly due to the fact that many of the GM crops that have shown success, such as cotton, canola and soy, are not traditionally grown in New Zealand.

Also, the filing an application to begin growing commercially would cost upwards of $30,000 and that would be a big cost to recover given the small scale of crops grown in New Zealand.

Scientists who have backed the technology say the country have made little progress in two decades.

Plant geneticist Tony Conner was getting ready to plant the first genetically modified trial crops in the Southern Hemisphere during the 1980s but two decades later he says the lack of progress is frustrating.

?Every year more than four times the total land area of New Zealand is now grown in GM crops around the world and if anything the system in New Zealand is we?ve regressed. It?s become more difficult to do field trials,? he says.

But environmental groups continue to say there is still not enough proof that GM is safe.

?We actually don?t know what the long term effects of GE (genetic engineering) will be in the environment. So we?re actually experimenting by going ahead and doing it within the environment,? says Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace New Zealand.

Currently having guaranteed GE-free produce is a marketing point for New Zealand

?New Zealand has a very powerful image offshore of this clean green image and that?s crucial to the way we market organic products and it?s crucial to the way we market our conventional products,? says Jon Tanner, Organics New Zealand.

But Conner says the cautious approach could actually end up limiting our agriculture industry.

?We?re heavily reliant on overseas companies for our new innovative cultivars for the New Zealand market and it just bothers me that in time, in 10-15 years time, we could be well left with yesterdays? cultivars,? says Conner.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Scoop, New Zealand

AUTHOR: GE-Free New Zealand in food and environment, Press Release


DATE:   17.11.2008

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The vested commercial interests of scientists meeting at the 10th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms means the public can have little confidence in the independence or credibility of their risk-analysis.

The GM Biosafety Symposium being held in Wellington this week has been positioned to journalists as a chance for researchers to exchange ideas on the risk of GMO?s. But many of the speakers at the media-briefing on Monday are scientists with vested interests in promoting the hasty commercialisation of GMOs for private gain, and seek to profit by allowing risks to be ?socialised? onto the wider community. Other speakers from overseas have also been lobbying at the UN for a weakening of the Cartegena rules.

Claims of scientific safety made by those directly benefitting from commercial ventures are compromised by a blind-eye being turned to new independent information about the complexities of gene-functioning, and to the proven risks to society from unbridled commercialisation of gene technology? says Jon Carapiet from ?GE Free NZ in food and environment?.

?Early-stage research is being rushed to commercial outputs, largely with patenting and license-fees in mind. This Symposium is a talkfest for people who believe that is acceptable,? says Jon Carapiet. ?Using commercial terms to describe their attitude to what is happening to nature; the ?property rights? of our ancestors, everyone alive today and of future generations are being lost by the privatisation of lifeforms and natural ecosystems.?

The criteria for GMO safety and regulation cannot be left in the hands of those with most to gain from commercial science, including staff at government agencies who are part of the ?revolving door? with industry that results in commercial GMO-users gaining approval from their former employees.

The question and answer media session being run by the Science Media Centre which is promoting the conference, is only open to a hand picked media contingent. The Science Media Centre has also shown it lacks credibility as a source of balanced information, having remained noticeably silent in discussions of the ethical, environmental and economic risks to New Zealand from AgResearch?s plans to go into commercial production using a wide range of GE animals around the country.

?The GE Free media representative was initially approved and then declined an invitation to attend the briefing. This shows that the organised media event is being managed to avoid any risk of the scientists being asked difficult questions,? says Claire Bleakley President of GE Free NZ, who will be attending the Conference. ?We hope the media will not be hoodwinked into accepting hand-fed selective opinion that fails to reflect the full range of independent published data on the dangers posed by GMO?s.?

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: Scoop Independent News, New Zealand

AUTHOR: GE free New Zealand in Food & Environment, Press Release


DATE:   11.11.2008

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The Incoming Government must not weaken the rigourous laws around genetically engineered organsims (GMO?s) that protect New Zealand?s status as a GE Free nation.

With the advent of new governments in the US and New Zealand there appears to be mounting pressure to commercialise GE animals and crops. Any discussions over commercialisation of GE that threaten our GE-Free reputation and future production must be made public and transparent and involve the whole country.

John Key has committed himself to building the New Zealand brand and that must focus on safe, sustainable and ethically produced quality products the world wants.

The cruel use of transgenic animals and commercialisation of GE crops cannot be part of that economy. The values many cultures within New Zealand share must not be put at risk and the?Kiwi? reputation must not be undermined.

Transgenic animals suffer markedly from low birth rates, deformities and ill health, and will damage our reputation around the world. New Zealand is being targeted by overseas investors for farming of GE animals as bio factories for the potential production of products that are already safely made through conventional means.

?The use of transgenic animals pushes New Zealand to the brink, and only leads to more animal suffering and a total abdication of animal rights,? said Claire Bleakley from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

Many of the products that are being identified for genetic engineering are a direct result of the last century of chemical pollution and degradation of the food supply. But no amount of transgenic product will address the damage and the best solution is to remove the cause.

The commercial risk to our international reputation is significant. ACT and National must end ?socialised risk? and instead put liability on commercial organisations using GE animals and crops that damage the New Zealand brand.

?With millions of US consumers keen to buy GE-free produce from New Zealand let?s not try and force through a failed technology to the detriment of our animals environment and economy. Let?s look at what has brought us here over the millennia and advance sustainable non transgenic methods of agricultural commerce and production? she said.



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