GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 15th October 2003

GE Minister called to Account for Misleading Statements in Parliament.

Minister Marian Hobbs misled MP�s in her speech promoting the NOOM bill, continuing the tradition of Ministers being misinformed or deliberately misleading the New Zealand public about their plans for the country.

In her speech the Minister noted the power of lobby groups who have the government�s ear saying, �I wish to thank the biotechnology industry. From 2000 to 2003 there has been a real brake on that industry - a compulsory stop in fact - on its GM research.�

Unfortunately, the statement is untrue as the moratorium is only on applications for GE release and has not applied to research.

Indeed under Marion Hobbs ERMA even expanded some GE research -such as the PPL GE sheep. Since being given the approval to expand the trial last year PPL has faced financial collapse. The sheep are now likely to be destroyed without  any laboratory study of the animals� internal organs or blood that would be necessary for real scientific information to be gathered from this GE experiment.

� Marian Hobbs should have known the moratorium had not been on or even on GE field trials. Once again she has used the suggestion that vital research is being stopped by the moratorium on GE commercial release to justify policy that goes against the national interest,� says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

The government�s failure to preserve GM-free production by law is also obscured by Marian Hobbs claims that systems to allow choice to avoid GE food are already in place and will be protected in the future. That is unfortunately a lie. The reality is that biotech groups, and even Federated Farmers have asked that ERMA allow a threshold of GE contamination to help them introduce GE to New Zealand. The proposed 1% GE contamination would make labelling GE-free foods impossible, denying people any choice.

Until the government commits to protecting GE-free production the basic rights of New Zealanders and our economic well-being are threatened. The Minister again mislead the house by saying: �When it comes to food, any food on sale in New Zealand has had to undergo rigorous and robust safety testing. People have a choice whether they eat GM food or not. Any GM food is labelled. In fact many GE- foods are not labelled, including all takeaways, any food prepared at point of sale, processed oils, and food additives derived from GE organisms. 

Jon Carapiet says �the government denied people the right to choose to avoid GE foods by leaving this gaping hole in regulations. All GM foods are NOT labelled and sneakily the authorities even removed a legal requirement for restaurants and other retailers to be able to answer customer queries when asked.� The minister�s claim, that foods �undergo rigorous and robust safety testing� is also misleading, as the Australian/ New Zealand food authorities do no such testing.

Their �assessment� of safety based on applicants data is the focus of widespread concern from independent scientists and medical professionals, including the British Medical Association and the Royal Society in Britain and Canada. The lack of a testing regime continues to haunt the global food industry, and has prompted insurance companies to refuse to insure risks from GE foods.

The minister also mislead the public about the chance of them eating GE potatoes saying it is � years away� �There may research work progressing on potatoes - but that does not mean that GM potatoes or any other GM fresh food will be on sale in NZ for maybe at least five years and then only after Food Safety Approval�. 

Some 20 GE foods have already been approved for import and sale in New Zealand. This list includes GE potatoes. �The Minister has presented no evidence to show these GE potatoes are not being sold already, but they have been approved for importation and in a large segment of the food market, would be sold without any labels to give the public choice.� For the Minister to make these misleading statements on matters of such great public concern is a tragic betrayal of the nation�s trust. 

� We want the Minister to make an apology in the House correct her statements- even if it�s just for the record that future generations will want to examine, � says Jon Carapiet. �Even if like ACT and National support GE release, they should be concerned that members of Parliament should not be misled�.

Contact Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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