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

Call for Cross-Party Consensus to protect GE-free Production in New Zealand
It is time for Political parties from across the spectrum to come together as they once did for superannuation and to agree to protect GM-free production in New Zealand.
A recent survey by DigiPoll shows there is massive public support for GE-Free agriculture in New Zealand and comes soon after Federated Farmers have also spoken out in support of GE-free agricultural production to protect our export markets.
Simon Terry from the Sustainability Council of New Zealand has called for all politial parties to come clean on their policy on GM release but GE Free NZ ( in food and environment) believe it is time to remove the GE issue from the poltical playground and confirm protection of GM-free produce as a cross-party policy in the National interest.
"New Zealand may have reached a defining moment in the GE debate when 75% of the public, Farmer organisations, major exporters, and the scientific community* all agree that we should not release GE organisms here," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.
"It is not enough for parties to hide behind ambiguous policies on 'co-existence of GE' with conventional agriculture based on forcing farmers and consumers to accept low-level contamination," says Jon Carapiet.
"It is time for all politicians to commit to protecting our abilty to produce and market high-quality GE-free produce which is defined as having no GE content."
As well as public and farmer support for this policy in the National interest, research funded by MORST entilted "Hands Across The Water"*  found that the scientific community spoken to also opposed environmental GE release at this time.
As highlighted by the Sustainability Council's statement of support for responsible science, New Zealand has much to be gained from a Science Policy based on contained and ethical research and applications of knowledge such as marker-assisted breeding and medicine that do not require environmental GE release and forced-acceptance of GE contamination. 
In addition to environmental, health, ethical and marketing concerns the lack of commercial insurance to cover GE damage and the refusal by patent-holders to pay up for the  contamination they cause exposes the public to huge costs and risks devastating our economy.
GE Free NZ in food and environment are calling for all political parties to fulfil the promise embodied in the findings of the Royal Commission on GM and make a clear committment to 'preserve our options' and protect our GE free status in food and field.
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681


75% Support NZ Remaining a GM Free Food Producer

75% Support NZ Remaining a GM Free Food Producer

Media Statement - 16 August 2005

Three quarters of New Zealanders would support the nation's food production remaining GM Free.

A poll conducted this month for the Sustainability Council by DigiPoll resulted in 74.5% supporting New Zealand's food production remaining GM Free, once informed there is no commercial production of GM food in this country. This compares to 70.1% support when the same question was put during the heat of the moratorium debate two years ago.

Polling has also shown a lack of public confidence in the regulation of GMOs. In particular, the work of ERMA - the Government agency responsible for assessing whether any GMO should be released into the environment. Those who did not have confidence in ERMA to regulate GMOs (45%) outnumbered those who did (40%). These results, from a poll conducted for ERMA in March, were obtained by the Sustainability Council under the Official Information Act.

The high level of support for New Zealand remaining a GM Free Food Producer is striking because the profile of the GM debate has not been as high in the last eighteen months as in 2003. Most notably, there have not been any applications to release a GMO since the moratorium was lifted.

Research into the outdoor use of GMOs has however been continuing apace with projects in New Zealand to develop GM varieties of: vegetables, grasses, milk products, and plants producing pharmaceuticals. Substantial investments are being made in these projects in the expectation that at some stage GM products will be allowed out of containment.

With these future decision points in mind, it is important that each political party makes clear its position on the outdoor use of GMOs. In particular, would it support New Zealand remaining a GM Free Food Producer during the term of the next Parliament?

Even if the public had full confidence in the regulatory framework, ERMA is only allowed to consider applications "case by case". Yet GM food production is a major national policy decision. For a country that earns half its export income from food, this is a fundamental branding and marketing call in addition to raising a host of other strategic issues. National policy decisions should not be delegated to ERMA, so political parties need to have policies that address the strategic question of whether New Zealand is to remain a GM Free Food Producer.

The Sustainability Council is pro-science and sees potential in the use of genetic modification in medicine. However the Council believes New Zealand should remain a GM Free Food Producer at least until there is clear acceptance of GM products in key export markets, and sufficient research has been undertaken on the environmental effects of GMOs to properly assess their impact in New Zealand.


Poll Details

GM Free Food Producer Poll

Question: "While genetic modification is being used in medicine and research, there is no commercial production of genetically modified food in this country. Should New Zealand's food production remain GM free?"


Aug 2003 (Colmar Brunton): Yes: 70.1%; No: 18.2%; Don't know: 11.7%.

Aug 2005 (DigiPoll): Yes: 74.5%; No: 18.3%; Don't know: 7.2%.

Both polls have a sample size of 500 and a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. (A breakdown of the 2005 result shows a very close match of urban and rural figures which can otherwise be a source of sampling uncertainty.)

ERMA Confidence Poll

Question: "How confident are you in the ability of the Authority to regulate GMOs in New Zealand?"


Feb/Mar 2005 (BRC): Very confident 9%, Confident 31% Total =40%

Not Particularly Confident 25%, Not at all Confident 20% Total =45%

Don't know/refused 15%

The research was conducted for ERMA by BRC and the sample of 288 was drawn from the full sample of 1000 used for the omnibus survey that the question was a part of. Selection was made on the basis of respondents who "indicated they had knowledge of ERMA as an organisation". A margin of error is not listed.

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