GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 6th October 2003

Government Abandons GM-Free production. Farmers' proposal for contamination thresholds unacceptable to public.

Ask Helen Clark or her Ministers if the government will protect GM-Free production systems in New Zealand and you will not get a straight answer.
That is because the Labour government has decided to abandon preserving GM-free production as the price of GE-release under the NOOM bill, which returns to parliament Tuesday 7th October. " The government has refused an amendment to require ERMA to preserve GM-free production systems. It is betraying the national interest by pushing on with release without such legal protection," says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

The government's intransigence is all the more surprising as new evidence has emerged in recent weeks that not only is our economy reliant on guaranteed GM-Free production, but that is what the majority of people in New Zealand and in our major markets want for their families. The government is refusing to consider the evidence from research it has invested in - such as last month's Otago University Business School study that advised "New Zealand should defer commercial release of GMO's in farm animals for meat or milk production, and for pasture and animal feed, until such time as this technology becomes widely accepted in European markets"

"Trust and Country Image" page 78).
This covers most of our primary exports when considered together with the admonitions of food exporters like Sanitarium and Zespri for an extension of the moratorium, and standards for other exports such as the requirement for non-GM timber by the Forest Stewardship Council. Instead of listening to the evidence (as they promised to do after the Royal Commission), the government has decided to "abandon" rather than "preserve opportunities". 

The government is refusing legal protection for the one thing New Zealanders and our overseas customers are demanding: GE-Free production. Instead they are intent on GE release to please lobby groups from the biotech industry even at the cost of the wellbeing of present and future generations. " We cannot trust ERMA to preserve GE-free production whether organic or conventional. 

ERMA openly admit they are there to 'manage' contamination and negative effects, not prevent them, ' says Mr Carapiet. "The government is abdicating its responsibility to the people of this country by refusing to protect GM-free production by law." After years of dishonesty and spin the passing of their "NOOM" bill is the time for the government to come clean and tell the people of this country what levels of GE contamination they propose to allow. Europe has this week set GE contamination thresholds ranging from 0.3% for swede rape, 0.5 for beet, maize, potatoes and tomatoes, to 0.7% for soy. 

Before thousands of New Zealanders take to the streets on Saturday to voice their concern, they have the right to know from the government what levels of contamination the government propose. The 1% GE contamination proposed by Federated Farmers as a target for ERMA to work to is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the majority of people. It's time for ministers to be honest and go public about what percentage they envisage is OK. 

Contact Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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