update on the NZ Royal Commission including some interesting points raised by religious groups
GE parties fight to finish
New Zealand Herald 26/02/2001 (Online)
New Zealand News 26.02.2001
By ANNE BESTON
Accusations of false evidence and a fight over who gets the final say have broken out as the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification prepares to wrap up. Life Sciences Network, an umbrella group of industry and scientists who support genetic engineering, wants the chance to contradict evidence given by groups opposed to GE and to put new evidence before the commission. In particular, Life Sciences Network wants to refute claims by a key Green Party witness, Dr Elaine Ingham of Oregon State University, that genetic engineering could devastate plant life. But the network also wants to put new evidence to the four commissioners, a move that has angered Greenpeace.
"Life Sciences Network are using this opportunity to present unchallenged evidence to the commission and we've expressed concern about that," Greenpeace spokeswoman Annette Cotter said. She said extensive cross-examination of witnesses had already been allowed during the hearings.
"We don't see what the commission would gain from the presentation of further rebuttal evidence."
Commission media officer Sarah Adamson said a legal opinion from the commission's lawyers allowed for rebuttal or new evidence. "The opportunity is there and it's up to the commissioners to determine whether it's new evidence.
"One of the tests will be, why wasn't it presented at the time? "But one day has been allocated and I would expect it will be used."
The commission will hold just one more week of formal hearings followed by closing submissions from March 12 to 15. The date for rebuttal or new evidence is March 9. The commission is due to hand its report to the Coalition Government by June 1. Meanwhile, church groups have told the commission that evil as well as good could come from genetic science. Religious groups, including Anglicans, Quakers and Jews, put their case and called for a conservative approach to genetic engineering. "Profit maximisation" and "market share" were forces which could trample over society's less powerful groups, the Anglican Church told the commission. Genetic modification of organisms needed to be strongly regulated, the church said, to "moderate the excesses of corporate enthusiasm."
New Zealand Anglicans were strongly opposed to the transfer of genes between species, particularly transferring human genes to animals, the church said. The Jewish community told the commission that its members had concerns that genetic engineering of food was not kosher and called for compulsory food labelling. Many Jews objected to genetically modified foods because Kashrut, Judaism's dietary law, prohibits the mixture of plant and animal species. They asked the commission to respect Jews' religious rights by recommending that all GE foods be labelled. The Quaker community said release of GE material into the New Zealand agricultural environment should be banned and said its members wanted a moratorium of no less than 10 to 15 years on all GE plant or animal production or field trials. They called for another inquiry into GE and said all food that contained any GE material should be labelled. The present food labelling requirement, due to come into effect within the next year, calls for foods with 1 per cent or more GE content to be labelled. Last views * Maori organisations will put their case to the commission this week in what is the final week of formal hearings * A national hui will be held on April 6, 7 and 8 to wrap up the commission's Maori consultation programme. It will be held at Turangawaewae Marae * Applications for groups to put rebuttal evidence to the commission close next Friday at 5 pm * Ten groups put their evidence to the commission last week, including church groups and organic farmers (c)Copyright 2001, NZ Herald [Entered February 25, 2001]