NZ Greens keep their promise on GE
EXCERPT: "The period of constraint, as the Govt likes to call the moratorium is supposed to allow research to be done on a key concern the Royal Commission expressed - the "significant gaps in our knowledge" about the effects on soils, on native species and on horizontal gene transfer. A contract has been let to examine these things. When does it report? A few years from now! What does the Govt plan to do if it comes back with a list of dos and don'ts to prevent horizontal gene transfer of dangerous genetic material and GE corn pollen is already blowing all over our farms; GE viruses and bacteria from veterinary medicines are living in our soil after being excreted by animals; escaped GE salmon are swimming in our rivers and farmers are unable to sell their farms where they have grown GE ryegrass because our markets don't want meat or milk which has been fed GE feed?
Mr Speaker, there is still time to turn back."
Third Reading Budget Speech
6 August, 2003
It is with considerable sadness that the Green Party cannot support this third reading of the 2003/4 Budget.
That is because, contrary to the views of National, Act and NZ First, we do not see this budget as all bad. It contains some good initiatives and continues some Green Party initiatives from previous years which have now become baselined.
But that is all overridden by this government's refusal to listen to the people in their demand that we maintain the opportunity to grow and eat food free of genetically engineered organisms, and that we protect our environment from the unpredictable harm they could cause.
We made it very clear at the last election that GE was an issue of confidence for us and it remains so. The 35 percent increase in our vote at that election despite the untruths told about us was an endorsement of our position and we will keep our promise.
That is why, Mr Speaker, I move an amendment to the amendment, namely "to delete all the words after . and insert "that this House cannot express confidence in this Labour-Progressive government and their United supporters because they are determined to promote the release in to our farms, fields and environment of unpredictable genetically engineered organisms, despite strong opposition from consumers, growers, food manufacturers, exporters, economists, environmentalists, health workers, local authorities, churches and ordinary people with common sense."
It's a pity things have come to this pass, because as I said, there are some good initiatives...
But the defining point for us is the intransigence of the Government on genetic engineering and that is why we cannot vote for this budget.
As the only nine Parliamentary representatives of the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who do not want GE released into their food or their environment, we promised those people our vote would be conditional on preserving New Zealand's GE free status except for the many beneficial uses in a contained laboratory.
Let's remember that the polls tell us we are not representing a minority here. The most recent asked about preserving GE free food production in NZ at least until our markets will accept it and an overwhelming 80 per cent supported that policy. Once you get outside this building, with its blinkered views and half baked science and political slogans and engage with the real world of common sense, you find we are the majority.
Since the Government made its decision to promote the release of GE a lot of evidence has accumulated. There would be no loss of face if the Government were to engage with that evidence and change its mind. There is no shame in allowing the new facts to get in the way of old prejudices. The GE Free movement would congratulate, not scoff.
Lets look at some of what has happened since the Royal Commission reported and the government rejected its advice of caution and accepted its advice to proceed. Things which no-one could have known at the time.
According to the Panel of Independent Scientists, including a number of household names, GE crops have failed to deliver their promised benefits, and have not significantly increased yields or reduced herbicide or pesticide use. Their call to put this technology on hold until we know a lot more finds that there can be no co-existence of GE and non-GE crops and contamination is unavoidable. The MAF report recommended by the Royal Commission found that co-existence can only occur if all non-GE crops accept a contamination level of one per cent, which growers, consumers and overseas markets do not want.
The Independent Panel points to growing problems on the farm with herbicide resistant weeds and safety concerns that have never been investigated.
The European Union has adopted labelling rules that will require all our food exports to be labelled as containing GE material if we adopt the one per cent threshold for allowable contamination. Supermarkets have said that they simply won't buy anything labelled GE because their consumers don't want it.
While the Gene Technology Regulator in Australia has approved GE canola for growing there, none will be grown because all the states where it could be [grown] have imposed their own bans of one kind or another. They see a market advantage in doing that and if we persist in the foolish plan to release GE food crops we will be at a marketing disadvantage compared with Australia.
The science has also moved on. Two years ago scientists thought there were some 150,000 genes in the human genome. Now they have reduced that to 30,000. The point of this is not just that we know so little and keep finding we were wrong; but rather that the whole basis of genetic engineering, the belief that genes alone control inheritance and that each gene codes for only one characteristic, is wrong. Thirty thousand genes are not enough to control human inheritance and other factors must be involved. When we transfer genes what else are we transferring, without having any idea of its function?
There are many recommendations of the Royal Commission the Govt is not even pretending to implement. Like not using food animals or plants to produce pharmaceuticals. Like allowing councils to establish, after consultation with their communities, GE exclusion zones to protect local production. Like having a strategy to protect bees. The only strategy to protect bees, announced by MAF after months of research, is that beekeepers will be responsible for finding out on the internet where GE crops are grown and moving their hives six kilometres away from them. Great!
The period of constraint, as the Govt likes to call the moratorium is supposed to allow research to be done on a key concern the Royal Commission expressed - the "significant gaps in our knowledge" about the effects on soils, on native species and on horizontal gene transfer. A contract has been let to examine these things. When does it report? A few years from now! What does the Govt plan to do if it comes back with a list of dos and don'ts to prevent horizontal gene transfer of dangerous genetic material and GE corn pollen is already blowing all over our farms; GE viruses and bacteria from veterinary medicines are living in our soil after being excreted by animals; escaped GE salmon are swimming in our rivers and farmers are unable to sell their farms where they have grown GE ryegrass because our markets don't want meat or milk which has been fed GE feed?
Mr Speaker, there is still time to turn back.
"Almost everything scientists are trying to achieve by genetically modifying crops can be achieved in other less risky ways. Whether the problem is pest or weed control, drought tolerance, yield or nutrition, there are countless, though poorly supported, farming methods that can be used before needing to open pandora's box of genetic tricks. GM advocates seem only to have discovered the cause of poverty eradication now that they have something to sell." - Andrew Simms
World hunger needs a simple solution rather than hi-tech GM food