GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment,1th July  2003

Choice between moratorium or NZ economy.

The corn contamination discovered in Japan is a clear indication that the claimed safe regulation of GE commercial releases in New Zealand is an impossibility. The recent ERMA Review warns of the flawed oversight of field tests and the lack of coordination with MAF. These failings and the fact that authorities are allowing importation of seed from countries likely to have GM-contamination, is tantamount to self-sabotage.

Though MAF officials say they can't rule out any of the possible causes for New Zealand products testing positive for GE contamination this event is a hint of things to come if the moratorium on GE release is lifted in October.

Yet Federated Farmers and government authorities are proposing that the level of contamination identified by the Japanese becomes accepted as a normal part of business. They have supported standards allowing up to 1% GE contamination, which the recent incident shows will be a direct threat to our exports.

If more GE crops are planted around the country we can only expect more of our exports to be rejected and our clean green image to be shattered for good.

"Its ridiculous for a small country dependent on its primary produce exports to be allowing GE release, when even Australian states are introducing their own bans," said Jon Carapiet from GE Free New Zealand. "It will be a betrayal of the national interest and gross mismanagement if we throw away our precious clean, green reputation."

New EU rules are rejecting GE crops possibly allowing Europe to become a GE-free zone simply through consumers choosing not to buy GE products and via safety rules that would make it almost impossible to grow GM crops.(1) Recent international CODEX guidelines allow for a case-by-case premarket assessment of GM foods that includes an evaluation of both direct and unintended effects.(2)

The incident is further proof that GE contamination is being allowed to occur in New Zealand by a lax and deeply flawed ERMA regime, something GE Free New Zealand has been warning government and MAF officials of since 1999, urging them to source seed from countries other than the US.

MAF are saying they have no idea where the contamination has come from, seed, soil or cross contamination, maybe the genetic constructs will help identify the source. Genetic tags identifying companies producing these unwanted products should be introduced to allow them to be prosecuted for contaminating crops.

"It is not good enough that they get away scot free while farmers and food companies can be held liable. What will happen when pharmaceutical drug trial crops begin to contaminate our food supplies as they have in the US," says Jon Carapiet

MAF have also stated publicly that they will not be able to guarantee containment of GE conditional releases, a section in the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill granting them a let out clause by allowing any GE organism that becomes 'naturalised' (like gorse or possums) is no longer classified as a GE organism. Is this what GE corn will become shortly?

It is noteworthy that the Corngate TV3 episode and the new corn contamination find have been released the same day. Is this government spin-doctoring to ensure the media items surrounding GE are kept to a minimum in the lead up to October? If so the strategy may fail as it is becoming increasingly obvious to everyone that government schemes for release are unworkable, and the moratorium must be extended.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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