ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  3 December 2000


With the biotech lobby's massive resources focused on the Royal Commission in NZ, it appears to be turning more and more into a David and Goliath contest.  Moreover, one suspects that is being judged and will be reported on by the Phillistines!

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Anti-GE groups have attacked the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification for not giving the public a fair hearing.
By Anne Beston, Environment reporter, New Zealand Herald - 2 December 2000

Eight groups, including Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics and GE-Free New Zealand, signed an open letter to the four-member commission, asking for more time for public submissions.  The deadline for written submissions closed yesterday.

The groups criticised the "complicated" submission forms, and said public meetings held around the country were not advertised enough.

The meetings were also held on weekdays during normal business hours, making it difficult for the majority of people to attend.

Commission chairman Sir Thomas Eichelbaum rejected the allegations and said more than 3000 public submissions had been received.

The 15 public meetings, 10 regional hui, 25 workshops and 14 weeks of formal public hearings, during which 117 groups aired their views, had allowed people easy access to the commission, he said.

Meanwhile, representatives of four large industry groups appeared before the commission this week, including poultry and egg producers who acknowledged that soy feed given to New Zealand chickens was likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Tegel Foods cost manager John Foulds said no assessment was done to grain before it was fed to birds.  Feed supplied from the United States was combined with GE and GE-free varieties.

"[US suppliers] say their crops contain GE material and they are unable to distinguish in exports what levels of modified and unmodified are present," Mr Foulds said.

Under cross-examination from Green Party representative Tom Bennion, Mr Foulds said the inability to be sure of the grain's status was a concern "if it's a concern to the consumer."

Also before the commission was the Worm Federation of New Zealand, which said it wanted to know what effect the growing of genetically engineered crops had on soil.  It urged the Government to spend as much money on organic agricultural research as it did on genetic engineering research.

Next week, the sixth week of formal hearings, the organics industry will put its case against genetic tinkering.

The Government has asked the commission to investigate the issue of gene science. It must report by next June.


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