New Zealand - Maori want right of veto over GM organisms
The Dominion, New Zealand - 28 FEBRUARY 2001
A call for an "unequivocal" Maori right of veto over applications to introduce or experiment with genetically modified organisms, on Tuesday added to an increasingly tough overall Maori line against the new technology.
Put to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification by Maori Congress chief executive Tu Williams, the call came with a series of tough recommendations, including for a 10-year moratorium on all field tests or general release of genetically modified organisms.
And according to congress GM spokeswoman Chris Webster, the "10-year" was a starting point: the aim, she said, was for a complete rejection of the new technology. The congress wanted no GM applications, no trials and "certainly no releases".
The congress's submission calls for the setting up of a Maori "framework of protection", ensuring systems of protection be put in place from a Maori cultural viewpoint and, as a prerequisite, the fast-tracking of the controversial Treaty of Waitangi "WAI 262" claim that claims sovereignty over native plants and animals.
It also wants the government to develop policy toward making New Zealand a GM-free nation, and for New Zealand go fully organic by 2005.
Asked by Life Sciences Network lawyer Chris Hodson, QC, whether "decisive" meant a requirement for the right of veto, Mr Williams said: "Yes. Unequivocally."
Questioned in Maori by Life Sciences Network representative Paora Ammunson, Mr Williams acknowledged that Maori ancestors had themselves imported plants and created hybrids with different gene structures.
"You are correct in your statement relating to people of the old world using techniques like those the commission has been brought together for," he said.
The difference, however, was that there the knowledge, mana and decision-making remained with Maori.
Asked for a reaction to the plight of "all those people who suffer from sugar diabetes", Mr Williams said he favoured the notion of prevention being "a better cure than having an ambulance at the top of the cliff".
In other submissions, the Muaupoko Cooperative Society, representing Muaupoko iwi between the Manawatu River and Waikanae, gave an emotional submission about responsibilities to pass on a clean environment to children. "Best we don't start activities that may render women sterile, that would stop mankind from being born," spokeswoman Vivienne Taueki said.
"It's frightening, absolutely frightening. I just think it needs a lot more discussion and information sharing before we can make any decisions on it."
The Federation of Maori Authorities, representing land-owning trusts, though recognising "potential risks," supported case-by-case evaluation of GM applications by a new body, independent of government and with "full and informed participation of Maori".