23 May 2002
GE BOTTOM LINE FOR SUPPORT OF NEXT GOVT - GREENS
The latest on the GE struggle in NZ below - the Green MPs walked out of Parliament yesterday rather than vote on/for the GE moratorium in the HSNO Bill. Thanks to Christine Dann for this.
GE bottom line for support of next Govt - Greens
22 May 2002
The Green Party caucus will recommend to the Green Party conference next week that the release of genetically engineered organisms into New Zealand’s environment will be a bottom line for its support of another Labour-led Government.
"The public of New Zealand must understand that the new moratorium preventing commercial release expires next year. A majority Labour Government will mean that New Zealand’s GE-Free status will be lost forever," said Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.
"The Green caucus believes that any coalition agreement with Labour must include an agreement to stop the moratorium being lifted in October 2003. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to be a coalition partner, just that we are setting a bottom line for that relationship.
"At our party conference next week, I will be asking our members to back the caucus on this decision."
Ms Fitzsimons said if a successful coalition agreement could not be achieved, the Greens could still support Labour forming a Government because the moratorium will be in place.
"However any confidence and supply agreement would be void on the day that the moratorium was lifted.
"If voters want widespread release of genetically engineered crops, animals or viruses next year, then they are welcome to elect a majority Labour Government. If they want to stop that, they will have to make sure that the Green Party is there in sufficient strength to hold them back," she said.
Ms Fitzsimons and the Green MPs left the House without voting after her speech during the third reading of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Genetically Modified Organisms) Amendment Bill. The Bill puts in place the moratorium, and also an automatic expiry date.
"The Green Party could not in all conscience vote for a Bill which sets an expiry date of October 2003 for the moratorium on commercial release of genetically engineered organisms. However, we will not vote against it because even a brief delay in the farming of GE crops and animals here is a step forward."
Ms Fitzsimons said today’s announcement does not affect the Green Party giving supply and confidence to the Government during this election term, as the moratorium is in place until after the election.
Jeanette's speech: 22 May 2002
Jeanette Fitzsimons MP: (04) 470 6661 or 0274 586 068
Gina Dempster, press secretary: (04) 470 6723 or 021 470 672
HSNO Amendment Third Reading Speech
This is the bill that was supposed to implement the findings of the royal commission on genetic modification. Mind you, that was always a difficult task, as for almost every statement the commission makes you can find a contrary statement somewhere in the report.
The key message from the commission was ‘Proceed with caution’. The Government says that is what it is doing. It is not. Our policy could better be described as proceeding with caution - continue to study and use gene technology within a contained laboratory but don’t let it out in the field.
Laboratory use of genetic engineering is where most of the claimed economic benefits will come from - from technologies that have no need to be used out in the environment.
But this Government is determined that it will put no obstacle in front of those who wish to grow GE food in New Zealand, destroying our GE Free marketing advantage, and eventually, our organics industry.
This bill is such a mixture of good news and bad news that no sensible position can be taken on it.
The good news is that the bill sets in place a moratorium on the release of genetically modified organisms.
The bad news is that the moratorium expires almost as soon as it starts.
The good news is that research is proceeding into the matters the royal commission raised where there is still considerable uncertainty such as horizontal gene transfer, effects on soils, and the economic impact of losing our current GE Free status.
The bad news is that the results of this research will have absolutely no effect - even if they show good scientific evidence for never releasing GMOs the moratorium will still expire automatically next year.
More bad news is that the moratorium will not apply at all to vaccines promoting human or animal health which will be able to be released right away.
The good news is that those vaccines will have to be able to show they cannot ‘persist viably’ in the wider environment.
The bad news is that the term ‘persist viably’ is defined so loosely that persisting for 10 years could still qualify.
More bad news is that even these special conditions for the release of vaccines will expire next year as well.
What the Government is doing here is allowing live genetically engineered vaccines - bacteria or viruses - to be given to animals knowing they will be excreted into the environment where they will continue to live.
Seventy million chickens are regularly given three to four vaccines which then find their way into chicken litter which is widely used for compost and so to grow our food. Most of our 42 million sheep are vaccinated against pulpy kidney, blackleg and tetanus. If a genetically engineered vaccine is developed that farmers find convenient some 40 million doses will be excreted into our soils from North Cape to Bluff. No organic farmer will be able to grow on these soils; no such vaccinated animal will be able to be sold as GE Free meat. We are cutting off our economic options very fast.
Good news is that as a result of an amendment I promoted at the select committee, ERMA will have to consider the effects of horizontal gene transfer when it considers giving approval for field trials.
The bad news is that the requirement that soil would have to be removed after a field trial has now been removed from the Bill. The main promise the Government made last year to reassure the public about this bill has been removed from it.
The good news is that as a result of other amendments I promoted at select commmittee, ERMA must set compulsory monitoring conditions during and after all field trials, and outdoor development projects must be subject to the same conditions as field trials.
The bad news is that two thirds of the public have said they do not want field trials outside the laboratory and, while this bill does not make them any easier to approve, it does nothing to stop them either.
I moved a number of amendments in the House last week to remedy these defects in the bill.
The Greens voted for the deletion of clause three which sets the expiry date for the moratorium, and when this was lost we voted against the whole of part one in which this clause appears.
I also moved to put back in the Government’s original commitment to the country that soil and other material would have to be removed from a field trial. I tried to remove the exemption for animal vaccines, allowing it only for human medicines. I moved to delete the dodgy definition of ‘persist viably’ and to remove the expiry of the special conditions for vaccines.
Bad news is that these amendments were all lost because Labour and National are voting together in their determination to unleash this unpredictable and irreversible technology into our farms and our environment.
Having tagged on to the bill the SOP amending the Medicines Act we are now about to vote to put asunder those things which should never have been joined together.
This part is also a good news - bad news story.
Good news: genetic engineering of human babies is to be banned.
Bad news: anyone can apply to the Minister of Health and get an exemption.
We know from animal experiments that the production of genetically engineered human embryos will lead to massive rates of human defects even among the tiny number who survive.
The Minister’s amendment makes it clear that human cloning is to be included in the ban. We know from animal cloning that not a single animal has been created by cloning that is not suffering from inherited defects.
This is a ghastly experiment with life and living things that has created nothing but monsters and sad defective animals. It is right that there should be a ban. But it is not right that there should be a process for getting approval.
There are no circumstances in which genetic engineering of humans could be acceptable on scientific, medical, moral or ethical grounds. So yesterday I moved an amendment to remove the clauses providing for exemptions.
The bad news is that this amendment was not supported either.
We hear constantly from the opposition that to oppose GE in our farms and environment is unscientific and anti-progress. Yet stories of disasters from the use of GMOs overseas are surfacing almost daily. Today’s story is about a group of pig farmers in IOWA, the home state of pig farming. After years of successful farming their sows suddenly stopped getting pregnant. Farrowing rates dropped to 20 per cent of normal. Every possible variable was tested and eliminated. Finally it was realised that all the farmers in the group had switched to growing GE Bt corn to feed their sows. When they switched back to GE Free corn the sows began producing piglets again.
Non-one knows what it was about the GE corn that prevented pregnancy, and that is the whole point: GE plants and animals are unpredictable and you can observe results but not necessarily the reasons for those results.
Why do we need to subject our farmers to this Russian roulette?
Why do we need to subject our people to the unknown health effects of untested GE foods, our farmers to the possible economic ruin, our environment to contamination like in Mexico? It does not make sense.
The Greens have been campaigning to keep GE in the lab for four years. The arguments get stronger every day as we look not at the gung ho predictions, but at what is happening in reality. New Zealand has the opportunity to be different, but this parliament has blown it in the short term.
There is nothing more the Greens can do in this parliament to ensure a GE Free future. We are protected from release now until next year. We will now take the battle to the streets and the people who will decide in a few weeks or months whether they want [GE].
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