GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 16th February 2005

Minister Misleading Public Over Terminator Trials

GE Free NZ in food and Environment believe Marian Hobbs is deliberately misleading the public about New Zealand's backing for Terminator genes at an international conference. Worse, she may be covering up the fact that similar technology is already being trialled in the field in this country.

Following the UN conference on Biodiversity the Minister has been called on to support an international moratorium on development of Terminator seeds until the fundamental societal issues have been scrutinised by the world community.

She has refused to do so and has dodged the question. But she has also not been honest about the fact that ERMA appear to have already approved trials of a different "GURT" (Genetic Use Restriction Technique) at Rotorua.

Firstly the Minister misled the media and the public when she implied she is being unreasonably asked to support a "ban" rather than a moratorium on Terminator seeds. Her press statement says "Marian Hobbs rejected a call (to (support a) ban on field tests for "terminator genes" raised in the report" .
This language seems to be a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the situation as revealed by the Minister's personal response to messages about Terminator seeds where she states:" It is important to note that countries are not presently being asked to vote on banning or otherwise of the use of GURTs" .

What's more the Minster's main advisors have allowed the misleading impression to go uncorrected as a way to avoid the question about a worldwide moratorium on Terminator seeds.

By talking in generalisations about GURTS but not specifically about Terminator seeds, Marian Hobbs is dodging the ethical question facing the international community.

She is also hiding the fact that ERMA may have approved field trials of GE trees at Rotorua incorporating a GURT. The application for GE pine trees now being grown in New Zealand is understood to include some with the "barnase" gene construct which is another approach to genetic control.

"The government must state their support for the global community over Terminator seeds,and back a moratorium," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"It must also face up to the fact that - despite opposition from many quarters- ERMA may have quietly allowed GE field trials of another form of GURT to begin in Rotorua"

"People may be angry that it's already starting but that's the way the government is pushing," says Jon Carapiet. " It's for that very reason the public are demanding our government come out clearly in support of the international moratorium on development of Terminator seeds".

The New Zealand government must keep faith with the public and the world by promising GE Terminator in food is not next on the agenda."

Jon Carapiet 021 050 7681


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