Suppressed memo laid at PM's door
"Catholic parishioners have formed a group to oppose the commercial release of genetically modified organisms... Organiser Aubrey Hatfield, from Hamilton, said the group had support from 296 parishes throughout the country." (item 2)
"one crucial memo was held back.... National MP Nick Smith, who tabled the memo in Parliament yesterday, described it as the smoking gun showing [the Prime Minister] had been 'donkey deep' in managing the issue in late 2000. Later he said he could not believe that the head of the Prime Minister's own department would deliberately defy her 'very public instructions without seeking her consent'." (item 1)
"We are outraged that [the Minister] is withholding information on which brands are contaminated and will not reveal those formulas containing GE soy. It's every mothers right to know what they are feeding their babies, especially as there has been no long term health testing of GM foods on either adults or infants. Who is the minister protecting? Definitely not New Zealand mothers and babies! Most mothers would be horrified to know they are feeding their babies GE contaminated formula." (item 3)
Some items shortened:
* Suppressed memo laid at PM's door
* Parishioners oppose GM
* Mothers Call For Boycott Of All Infant Soy Formula
* Grocery chains try to stay clear of modified foods
Suppressed memo laid at PM's door
By KEVIN TAYLOR AND JOHN ARMSTRONG
Corngate continued to haunt the Prime Minister yesterday after it emerged that the head of her department withheld a memo from release after she had ordered full disclosure to prove there had been no cover-up.
Opposition MPs say the memo by an official in the Prime Minister's Department showed that Helen Clark knew more about possible genetically modified corn contamination in late 2000 than she let on during last year's election campaign.
When the row over the Gisborne crop erupted, Helen Clark insisted officials had told ministers that there was no GM contamination. However, the memo shows she was directly advised that while contamination could not be confirmed, it could not be "completely discounted".
As Labour reeled from the release of Nicky Hager's book Seeds of Distrust, the Prime Minister ordered the release of all relevant documents to dispel suggestions of a cover-up.
But one crucial memo was held back by department chief executive Mark Prebble, sparking a letter of objection from its author, policy adviser Ruth Wilkie.
National MP Nick Smith, who tabled the memo in Parliament yesterday, described it as the smoking gun showing Helen Clark had been "donkey deep" in managing the issue in late 2000.
Later he said he could not believe that the head of the Prime Minister's own department would deliberately defy her "very public instructions without seeking her consent".
Ruth Wilkie's memo dated December 8, 2000, a summary of a crucial paper to the Cabinet on the issue, advised Helen Clark: "The outcome of the work over the last week is that we cannot say we have reliably discovered contamination in the corn currently planted, but equally we cannot say that we have completely discounted it."
It added: "There will need to be close attention paid to managing the communication of this issue. Careful planning is going into drafting information and informing industry and other players."
Sources told the Herald yesterday that her memo was only released last November and then to only one Wellington journalist. It was not released earlier because Dr Prebble had a convention that departmental memos were to be kept secret.
Ruth Wilkie wrote to Dr Prebble on July 17, 2002, to formally put her concerns about his decision to withhold "departmental notes to the Prime Minister on the management of the issue".
"I consider that at least one of the notes filled an important gap in the paper trail," she said. "The PM has stated publicly that she wanted everything released."
Ruth Wilkie, who resigned after the election to have a baby, declined to comment last night.
Corngate is being probed by the local government and environment select committee.
Dr Prebble told the inquiry last week that he did not consult Helen Clark about his decision not to release the Wilkie memo.
The latest revelations follow the appearance at the inquiry on Monday of Helen Clark's brother-in-law, Crop and Food Research Ltd scientist Dr Allan Hardacre.
He detailed two phone conversations with the Prime Minister about the issue around November 12 and 13, 2000, after she rang him seeking background advice.
In Parliament, Helen Clark denied that Ruth Wilkie's memo was kept secret on her instructions but said Ruth Wilkie had been right to disagree with Dr Prebble.
However, she described him as a "model public servant".
Sources told the Herald she learned of the disagreement between Dr Prebble and Ruth Wilkie only in November last year and had not disciplined him for withholding the memo.
A spokesman for Helen Clark said last night that he did not know if there had been any other reason besides pregnancy for Ruth Wilkie's resignation last year.
Another key figure in Corngate, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs, will give evidence to the inquiry today.
Who said what
1. Memo to Helen Clark from policy adviser Ruth Wilkie, December 8, 2000: "The outcome of the work over the last week is that we cannot say we have reliably discovered contamination in the corn currently planted, but equally we cannot say that we have completely discounted it."
2. Helen Clark on TVNZ during the 2002 election campaign: "The Government's adopted a policy of open disclosure."
3. Letter from Ruth Wilkie to Mark Prebble, chief executive of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, July 17, 2002, 10 days before the election: "I wish to register formally the concern I expressed to you on Saturday 13 July about the decision to withhold from public release ... notes to the PM on the management of potentially contaminated corn seed in December 2000. The PM has stated publicly that she wanted everything released."
Parishioners oppose GM
New Zealand Herald, 28.08.2003
By AINSLEY THOMSON
Catholic parishioners have formed a group to oppose the commercial release of genetically modified organisms, despite the Vatican's contrary view.
Parishioners from St Matthew's in Hamilton and St Patrick's in Oamaru formed Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) to fight the lifting of the GM moratorium.
Organiser Aubrey Hatfield, from Hamilton, said the group had support from 296 parishes throughout the country. More than 2000 parishioners had signed its petition.
Mothers Call For Boycott Of All Infant Soy Formula
Mothers Against Genetic Engineering in Food and the Environment
28 August 2003 12.30pm
MAdGE (mothers against genetic engineering in food and environment) are today calling for NZ parents to boycott all infant soy formulas until the Minister of Health and Food Safety discloses which brands contain detectable levels of genetically engineered soy.
"We are outraged that Annette King is withholding information on which brands are contaminated and will not reveal those formulas containing GE soy. It's every mothers right to know what they are feeding their babies, especially as there has been no long term health testing of GM foods on either adults or infants." said Hilary Ord, Madge spokeswoman.
In February last year Britain's leading scientific academy, the Royal Society, recommended that potential health effects of genetically modified foods should be rigorously investigated before allowing them into baby food or be marketed to pregnant or breastfeeding women, the elderly or those with chronic diseases.
Professor Jim Smith, who introduced the report, said infants eating baby foods were particularly vulnerable because they had such a narrow diet.
If there were any nutritional deficiencies in the food - for example fewer fatty acids - health would suffer; particularly infant bowel function. Small nutritional changes could lead to bowel obstruction. (The Guardian 5.2.02)
To date the testing recommended by the Royal Society of Scientists has not been done. Our children are not guinea pigs.
"Who is the minister protecting? Definitely not New Zealand mothers and babies! Most mothers would be horrified to know they are feeding their babies GE contaminated formula." said Ms Ord.
Hillary Ord is available for further comment, please phone Maike Nevill 027 247 1375
Anti-GE group calls for parents to boycott soy formulas
Secret formula: which baby milk is GM?
Baby product contains over 1 per cent GE, audit finds
Grocery chains try to stay clear of modified foods
New Zealand Herald, 28.08.2003
By SIMON COLLINS science reporter
New Zealand's two big supermarket chains want to take genetically modified foods out of their in-house brands - but say they cannot do it yet.
Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises decided to phase out GM ingredients from their house brands in 2000, soon after the leading European supermarkets decided to ban GM from own-branded products. Three years later, neither chain can yet claim GM-free status.
"We have almost achieved our goal," said Mark Brosnan, merchandise general manager for Progressive Enterprises, which includes Foodtown, Woolworths, Countdown and Price Chopper. "Our own policy is clear - that it's our goal that with our Signature and Basic brands, they will not be sourced from ingredients derived from GM crops.
"To achieve this we are working with all our current and potential suppliers to ensure that every product is from a non-GM source."