GE Free NZ, 26th June  2003

BioEthics Council and NZ Catholic Bishops call for more public scrutiny

The BioEthics Council and the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference today called on government to allow for more public scrutiny before GE conditional releases go ahead.

Federated Farmers although believing that GE and non GE crops are able to coexist, want the new bill to allow for up to 1% contamination, a contamination threshold which will affect those who want to buy 100% GE Free food. The BioEthics Council are urging that RCI recommendations are followed and choice is maintained.

'There are serious concerns about peoples basic right to choose what they eat,' says Jon Carapiet. 'The bishops and the BioEthics council support Maori, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Celtic traditions, whereas the biotech industry and Federated Farmers see these concerns only as commercial obstacles.'

Both the BioEthics Council and the NZ Catholic Bishops want greater emphasis to be given to cultural, ethical and spiritual principles allowing for a more balanced perspective; rather than the predominantly scientific one presently adopted by the Environmental Risk Management Authority ERMA. The biotech industry are arguing that this costs them time and money.

Respected DNA researcher Professor George Petersen speaking to the Education and Science select committee acknowledged scientists could not identify all potential risks of GMOs in our environment. He also admitted to finding the terminology of the new bill misleading, as did lawyer Jamie Ferguson who spoke, on behalf of Wendy McGuiness Assoc., of the problems already encountered with loose definitions in the HSNO Act, resulting in the Madge v AgResearch case presently awaiting judgement.

Both Petersen and McGuiness felt that unrealistic demands would be placed on the Environmental Risk Management Authority if the moratorium is removed in October.

Those promoting the science appear to be using this as a chance to push for deregulation, requesting that ‘low risk GE organism’ no longer be subject to New Organisms (GMO) regimes, at importation or during use in laboratory research projects. No questions, in regard to the risks or implications inferred by this were put by the select committee.

GE Free New Zealand also have concerns that public involvement and scrutiny will be further reduced if moves from the NZ Inst of Patent Attorneys, to refuse public Official Information requests for ‘commercially sensitive information’ regarding risks and benefits of GE organisms, succeed.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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