GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 19th  February 2004

GE Wheat Application a threat to New Zealand�s daily bread

An application to �Food Standards Australia New Zealand�, for approval of sale of Monsanto�s GE wheat, is a clear threat to consumer choice and the security of the global food supply.

It is urgent that governments and regulators learn the lessons from contamination, by GE variants of the global supply chain for soy, and ban planting and export of GE wheat across the world. The application for MON 71800 was notified for public comment yesterday, but the loss of New Zealand sovereignty to �transtasman� authorities means the product could forced into the market and added to around 20 GE products already sneaking into our shops. 

GE Free NZ in food and environment believe the approval process is a sham- as no independent testing is ever done and the product merely � assessed� safe. The Monsanto product is also likely to have higher levels of residues from the toxic sprays used for these GE crops: glyphosate. 

The  chemical has already been linked to contamination of groundwater and some human diseases yet there are no regulations in New Zealand to monitor contamination of water, the levels of this herbicide in our food, or the health effects. �The authorities process is a sham. It is not based on independent clinical testing, nor is there any scientific monitoring so we can learn from our mistakes.

The reality is that the approvals are driven by trade-issues and companies with vested interests,� says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. GE Free NZ in food and environment believe the authority is not meeting its narrow terms of reference, because it continues to turn a blind eye to the reality of contamination in crops like soy, and endorses imports that in effect will spread GE contamination into other crops.

GE soy has already been found to contaminate other crops like wheat through accidental �co-mingling�. Until global systems are in place to prevent environmental and food-supply contamination governments should be halting GE crop-planting wherever it is going on.

The fear is that there is a deliberate strategy to force new GE crops on an unwilling public. The Commerce commission has already stated that all soy is now likely to be contaminated to a point where it is illegal to claim it is �GE Free�. Thus contamination is a technique to achieve denial of choice to consumers to avoid GE . �The Royal Commission on GM said people must have a choice and GE-free labels should be voluntarily introduced. The decisions to allow imports and to even consider release in NZ directly contradicts that intention.�

The very existence of GE wheat has become an international problem because so many farmers- even those previously supporting GE crops- are now opposing its introduction in North America. As well as fears of a marketing disaster the contamination of the food supply by new GE introductions has become a liability issue. The initial FSANZ report on MON 71800 claims: �At this stage of the assessment, there is no reason to believe that costs arising from such a variation to include food derived from wheat line MON 71800 would outweigh the direct and indirect benefits to the community, Government or industry that would arise from the variation.

FSANZ is required by its legislation to meet three primary objectives: 

** the protection of public health and safety

** the provision of adequate information relating to food to enable consumers to make informed choices

** the prevention of misleading or deceptive conduct.

Approval of this application will in effect lead us down a path where there is no �informed choice� whatsoever to avoid GE, and also clearly constitutes misleading conduct by those in the biotech industry who claim that people�s right to have GE-free food will be preserved.

Jon Carapiet
 09 815 3370

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