New Zealand news:
1. Only stopping bulk GE imports will prevent contamination
2. New Regulations Needed to Protect NZ's Economy
3. Call for Cross-Party Consensus for GE-free NZ
4. 75% Support NZ Remaining GM Free Food Producer
5. Poll Details on GM free status and ERMA Confidence
1.Only stopping bulk GE imports will prevent contamination
Green Party press release: 17 August 2005
The Greens welcome MAF's announcement that the recent GE contamination of maize was not caused by a failure in border security, but warn only stopping imports of bulk GE flour and meal will prevent it from happening again.
Last month the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry rang alarm bells after a company’s own testing revealed that thousands of tonnes of maize destined for human consumption showed signs of GE contamination. Today the Ministry have announced that further testing has revealed that the maize itself was not genetically engineered or cross -pollinated with GE varieties, but had come into contact with GE soy meal when in storage prior to the end user company receiving it.
"Although it is of course good news that we don't have thousands of hectares of uncontained GE maize growing in our environment, this latest GE contamination does raise real concerns," Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.
"Why are companies allowed to store human food in the same place as animal feed; or an allergen like soy with a benign grain like maize; or a GE product with anything else? Clearly the rules around the storage of bulk foodstuffs need to be tightened.
"MAF themselves acknowledge that due to the complexity of the processing and distribution of bulk food stuffs, it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict how and where contamination will occur next. Clearly, as long as GE product is being imported for whatever reason, contamination can occur.
"That's yet another reason why Inghams should stop feeding their chickens with GE soy.
"The Greens call on conscientious companies whose business relies on New Zealand's GE-Free status to lobby the Government to prohibit the importing of bulk GE flour and meal. Only such a move will prevent this type of contamination happening over and over again.
"This saga also raises again the question of liability for GE contamination. The losses for the end user who was trying to provide GE-Free product and the costs for MAF who had to investigate should be borne by the owner of the storage facility. Their slack procedures are directly responsible for this fiasco and they should be the ones to pay for it," Ms Fitzsimons says.
2.GE Contamination Shows New Regulations Are Needed to Protect New Zealand's Economy
Press release: GE FREE NZ, 17 August 2005
GE Free NZ in food and environment is angered that locally-produced maize was contaminated by an imported GE soy product destined for animal feed and is calling on MAF, ERMA and Food Authorities to coordinate the development of new standards to stop such incidents threatening the integrity of the food supply and New Zealand's economy.
Firstly such GE ingredients should not be allowed in any food shipment to New Zealand given the fact that all manufacturers say they are importing GE-free animal feed. The user of the contaminated feed should own up as to why they had imported it at all.
Secondly, the animal feed should not have been anywhere near human food let alone being allowed to transfer a non-approved GE contaminant that prompted panic amongst manufacturers and exporters.
Contamination coming from another GE product raises grave issues about food safety, adequacy of segregation, and the potential impact on people with allergies who seek to avoid certain foods and do not expect 'accidental contamination' to have taken place. The problem is made all the more serious because of the lack of public health monitoring to gauge the impact of more than a score of GE foods already quietly approved for importation.
If inadvertant ingestion of a GE product causes severe anaphylaxis there are no diagnostic tests or standardised systems for medical professionals to deal with such an event.
"It is irresponsible of any Food Safety Authority to allow foods onto the market without a diagnostic, treatment, incident-reporting and trace-back system in place to cope with such situations" says Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in food and environment.
"Further, the NZFSA relies on data from ESR whose commercial partner is Syngenta, which then raises serious questions of independence and possible conflicts of interest."
The NZFSA has spent months ignoring its responsibilties to actively monitor our food and it still has not tested the New Zealand food supply for the illegal entry of BT10 corn contamination though it is still being detected in recent shipments to Japan.
How long does the public have to wait before the NZFSA takes concern about GE foods seriously? The Transtasman body FSANZ has even admitted through internal emails that they do not have the requisite experience to independently assess concerns about GE raised by submitters. Nor has it even asked for or seen the raw data from animal feeding studies supposed to back up many GE applications.
"The NZFSA is treating the consumer with derision by refusing to label or respond to the concerns that are raised from contamination events. Does someone have to die before the need for strict segregation and public health monitoring is taken seriously?" says Claire Bleakley.
"Under the present situation somone could be seriouly ill as a result of an incident such as that of GE soy in conventional maize and no-one would be the wiser about the cause."
A recent poll found that 74% of all New Zealanders do not want to eat GE foods: it is time that an independent reassessment was made of all GE foods authorised to date, as well of the flawed system used to approve them.
Government should also commission MAF, ERMA and the Food Safety Authority to immediately develop protocols that will reduce the chance of such potentially-disasterous incidents happening again.
Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
3.Call for Cross-Party Consensus to protect GE-free Production in New Zealand
GE FREE NZ: Press Release, 16 August 2005
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
4. 75% Support NZ Remaining a GM Free Food Producer
Press Release: Sustainability Council of New Zealand, 16 August 2005
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.
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.