GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 11th August 2003

Biotech Industry could be labeled Terrorists

The new Terror Bill could make companies and individuals pushing for GE release in New Zealand liable to prosecution as terrorists. 

Politicians have commented that so-called "Anti-GE" protesters could be the first target of the Crimes Act amendment, prescribing up to seven years jail for anyone threatening actions causing ‘major economic loss to one or more persons’.

However the BERL economic report and comments from Former British Environment Minister on the damage to our economy from GE contamination signals that elements of the Biotech industry itself would be liable to prosecution.

The threat to New Zealand from companies demanding to release GE organisms is now clear. They are literally threatening our exports, the livelihoods of farmers, community values and future generations.

Last week former British environment minister Michael Meacher told the Dominion Post ( August 7th) that New Zealand should protect its economy by staying GE-free in food production. Mr Meacher wrote:
There are parallels between the British and New Zealand debates on genetic modification. Both nations are led by Labour governments that have argued the benefits of releasing GE organisms despite significant public opposition. Both face decisions in a matter of months on whether to formally clear the way for GE crops to be grown.

In preparation for this, the British Government has recently received advice that may have dampened prime minister Tony Blair’s willingness to allow genetically modified foods to be grown in Britain. The Cabinet strategy unit reported last month that “any economic benefits from commercial cultivation of current GE crops are likely to be outweighed by other developments, at least in the short term.” 

It stated that producing GE products “ could leave farmers facing a low market price ,or in the extreme, no market at all”.

This was underlined by representations from food retailers. The British Retail Consortium, representing 90% of food retailers, told the government that “supermarkets are not going to give shelf space to something that doesn ’t sell”.

Given this rejection of GE foods in Britain and by the majority of Europeans, I was surprised to find that the production of GE crops in New Zealand is still an open question.

New Zealand has a reputation throughout Europe, its principal food export market, as a source of clean and pure produce. A reputation that was in no small part earned by your nation’s brave stance against another unnecessary and unsafe technology: nuclear power. To an outsider it seems extraordinary that New Zealand would risk this international image through allowing the growing of GE crops. Last week , I visited Canada and witnessed first-hand extensive contamination of their fields with GE canola. The reality is that you cannot have co-existence of conventional and GE: it simply doesn’t work.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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