Fashion lovers attending New Zealand Fashion Week were surprised to hear of AgResearch's proposals for commercialising GE animals and many were distinctly unimpressed by the plans.
A public vigil organised by GE-Free NZ, SAFE and The Soil and Health Association was held outside AgResearch's sponsored show to encourage public submissions on AgResearch's applications to ERMA.
A menagerie of 'animals' greeted those attending the show and flyers summarising the proposals were handed out as security guards, police and even some off-duty models looked on.
"It was a shock to many that the same organisation promoting fine wools and innovative Kiwi products on the one hand were also undermining the image of Brand New Zealand with their plans for GE animals," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.
The fact that none of the products on show are the result of transgenics is evidence that innovation through ethical use of science and biotechnology is possible, and indeed necessary to protect New Zealand's international standing.
But the extreme proposals being made for GE animals by AgResearch are an even more serious threat to New Zealand's brand image than the recent contamination of milk at Fonterra's Chinese subsiduary.
" We cannot have it both ways and build our reputation as clean, green, and natural and at the same time have AgResearch undermining those values, and ignoring basic community expectations that they will be protected," says Jon Carapiet.
Some visitors from overseas even started to question the nature of the AgResearch products already on show. They had to be reassured that none were 'GE'd' because New Zealand has no commercial GE animals or crops.
"There must be a middle path of ethical biotechnolgy that can protect Brand New Zealand, says Jon Carapiet. "But GE animals born with deformities or milked for products that can be made in other ways is not it."
AgResearch's vision must be amended to be one that rejects cruelty and unethical treatment of animals. Any failure to do so puts more than animals at risk; it also threatens the environment and the future of New Zealand's Brand reputation which doesn't even belong to AgResearch, but to the nation as a whole.
Jon Carapiet 0210507681