The annual Hot Debate held at Lincoln University, this year focused on GE, revealed startling facts about the absence of food safety research, monitoring and diagnostics.
The debate was introduced by Selwyn District Deputy Mayor Sarah Walters and compered by Kim Hill, and featured six experts in their respective fields. 
All the panelists were unconvinced that there were any benefits that New Zealand would get from GE at this time, favouring the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification's stance to proceed with caution.
Dr. Tony Connor spoke about the promise of new GE forage grasses to be trialled for 'blockbuster' traits, ingnoring the proven success of non-GE alternatives. Though the debate left many statements unchallenged, there was general surprise that common assumptions that GE foods are safe are not based on published data.
When a question was asked of the panel: �As the scientists involved stated that GE foods were safe to eat, would they provide 10 human studies to back up their statements? Would they also advise where the diagnostic tools are available for health professionals to identify if GE food in the human diet may be contributing to illness?�
The shocking answer from the pro GE debaters, Dr. Jon Hickford and Dr. Tony Connor, was �there are no human studies." or diagnostic tools for monitoring public health impacts of GE food.
They went on to explain the absence of safety research was because it would be "difficult to get ethical approval to do them on humans�.
The absurdity of the situation was apparent to those attending the debate, and goes to the heart of the global rejection of GE foods by consumers.
�Scientists are unable to test if pesticide-laden GE foods are safe because it would be unethical, yet the population is forced to eat GE foods on the assumption they are safe!� said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
�It was this same mentality that allowed DDT, Thalidomide and PRB�s. Why do cosmetics undergo more stringent testing than GE foods? These are questions we need to ask because we are just "guinea pigs" heading for a serious health disaster now, and for future generations�.
The reality is that New Zealand's success will be undermined by GE in our farming environment, whether it is forage crops, wheat, canola, soy or corn. There is alarm in the community that some researchers and farmer advocacy groups, even within Federated Farmers, are promoting GE options at the expense of existing alternatives.
A speaker from OANZ, Dr. Christine Dann stated, �NZ farmers are already growing plants well ahead of anything GE has to offer. We have the data on the tried and true non-GE cultivars today. It is essential that any research goes into furthering these sustainable options�.
Special interest groups lobbying for commercial release of GE in New Zealand are betraying their own members and threatening exports of clean, safe food that are vital for the economic wellbeing of the country.
 Hot Debate http://www.lincoln.ac.nz/News--Events/Events/Kim-Hill/
Claire Bleakley- president of GE-Free NZ - 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731