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Synthesis/Regeneration 21   (Winter 2000)

New Zealand Green Party Presents GE Petition

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons' petition calling for a moratorium on growing or selling genetically engineered (GE) food in New Zealand was presented to Parliament on October 5, 1999.

The petition had 91,000 signatures, including that of world-renowned conservationist and television personality David Bellamy. It asked for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into genetic engineering (GE), something the Green Party has been asking for since 1998, and a moratorium until the risks of the GE technology can be better established. The petition has been distributed at public meetings around New Zealand and was launched just seven months previously. Ms. Fitzsimons said it represented "a groundswell of concern about the technology, which has been forced on New Zealanders by multinational companies and government agencies, often in secret."

"Both National and Labour have tried to defuse genetic engineering as an election issue, but it will not go away."

"In the past seven months I have been averaging two genetic engineering meetings a week, and can't keep up with demand, mostly from non-party-members, to speak on the subject," Ms. Fitzsimons said.

"Both National and Labour have tried to defuse genetic engineering as an election issue, but it will not go away. National has set up the Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council chaired by a known advocate of GE, which is "consulting" by calling for submissions. It suggests a moratorium on commercial GE releases for six months. But this is hardly long enough for the authorities to process Monsanto's application to grow GE canola on large acreages in the South Island."

Ms. Fitzsimons said the public would not accept the Government-appointed advisory council in place of a genuine open inquiry, which would instead provide a forum for debate and for testing the evidence. "This petition has pushed the Labour Party into supporting a Royal commission and we welcome that. But Labour is not committed to a moratorium on growing or selling GE food."

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