GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 23rd October 2003

Government commitment to Zero Threshold for GE contamination welcomed.

The government�s commitment to a policy of zero-contamination thresholds for GE in New Zealand food and agriculture is being welcomed by GE-Free NZ in food and environment as a standard vital to preserve the national interest.

Environment Minister Marion Hobbs speaking on National Radio�s �Outspoken� program (October 21), confirmed the government�s commitment to a zero contamination threshold for GE on the eve of the lifting of the moratorium on commercial GE release.

The Minister said that despite the problems around �Corngate� and moves in Europe to accept levels of less than 1% GE in four crops now believed to be widely contaminated, New Zealand would maintain a standard that fitted our unique standing in the international market as a clean-green food producer.

� The Minister�s statement is welcomed as it is the first clear from the government to protect GM-free production systems,� says Jon Carapiet form GE Free NZ in food and environment.

GE Free NZ (in food and environment) had asked that ERMA be required by law to protect GM-free systems but the government refused. The Minister�s commitment to a standard of zero-tolerance for GE contamination goes part of the way to reassuring the public of New Zealand that the benefits of a GE-Free New Zealand positioning will be preserved for future generations.

�The public have little confidence in ERMA, and a legal requirement to protect GE-free systems is still needed. This promise to maintain zero-acceptance of GE contamination is the next best thing,� says Mr Carapiet.

The government�s commitment puts them at odds with the Life Science Network whose spokesperson Dr William Rolleston also participated as part of the panel on the National Radio program and who spoke in support of allowing GE contamination in ordinary food.

However a new report from the US government, showing scores of infringements of basic rules meant to manage the risks of GE, is another warning signal that ERMA are playing with fire if they attempt to release GE organism in New Zealand.

"It may suit the multinational biotech companies and the Life Science lobby to have New Zealand accept contamination but that is not in the national interest."

� Of all the countries in the world, Zealand's Zealand�s unique marketing and ability to � box above our weight� to supply high-quality GM-free means we have to hold on to the best standards. Even if Europe accepts 0.4 % GE in a crop - we have to be better than that. New Zealand must be the best,� says Mr Carapiet.

GE Free NZ in food and environment reject the Life Sciences Network call for the government to set �acceptable contamination thresholds� as against the national interest and as a denial of the basic right to eat GM-free food that the Royal Commission on GM said must be defended. 

�The Life Science lobby says we should allow contamination because it will be too hard to prevent it 100% of the time. That is like saying we should allow rape and murder because some people will do it despite the laws against it,� says Mr Carapiet.

�They believe we should drop our standards to suit their business interests. The public of New Zealand- and most countries around the world disagree and will fight their attempts to undermine democracy and force-feed people the products of industry�s unwanted and unnecessary experiments.�

Contact Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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USA: Biotech rules infringed 115 times �
21 Oct 2003
The USDA said late last week that stringent federal regulations governing the planting of experimental GM crops have been infringed 115 times since 1990.

While none of the violations has harmed US agriculture, the country's food supply or its environment, the report has been greeted with great concern.

Biotech companies and research universities are both to blame for the violations, which occurred during the planning of genetically modified corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops not yet ready for commercialisation, reported Reuters.

Environmental groups have been trying to obtain these records for several years; they have now been published for the first time.

The 115 infractions account for less than 2% of the 7400 tests authorised since 1990, the USDA said. Most are considered �minor,� such as dirty farm machinery or insufficient isolation from non-GM crops.

However, four of the more serious infringements incurred penalties ranging from US$500-250,000, with Monsanto involved in four of those cases, Reuters commented. Emphasising that most of its infringements were minor, Monsanto said it would publish a list on its website.

Environmental lobbyists said they fear many more infringements go unreported.

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