'Would you use a condom with 49 holes in it?' - Madge (7/7/2003)

1.Decision on MADGE vs government over GE cows released today
2.Hold GM company liable for contamination costs
1. Decision on MADGE vs government over GE cows released today
'Would you use a condom with 49 holes in it?'
Mothers Against Genetic Engineering in Food and the Environment
Auckland, New Zealand
email [email protected]
Media advisory
Monday 7 July 2003
The Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs and her Ministry was severely criticised today by the High Court for not taking enough care in allowing GE cow experiments to go ahead.
The fact that the judge could not find faults with the legal process of approvals of GE experiments by ERMA merely confirms the widely held view that the law is inadequate when it comes to protecting the environmental and economic interests of New Zealanders.
In the MAdGE case against the Minister for the Environment, ERMA and AgResearch, Justice Potter ruled today that the Ministry's "informal understanding" and process to consider applications under the legislation was "unsatisfactory".  She said that MAdGE's concerns about the processes are justified.  She said that given the importance of these matters "a clear protocol is needed supported by systems within the Ministry to ensure that the protocol is observed and that the Ministry is patently accountable in respect of the process".
MAdGE had argued before the Court that the last two stages of the experiment on the GE cows at Ruakura was not a "development" but a field test. 
MAdGE contended that "development" under the HSNO legislation means "genetic modification of a new organism" which stops when the new embryo has been created in the lab.  Madge argued and continues to maintain that the last two stages that involve transgenic cows let loose in the open paddock for the purpose of breeding and milking is a field test.
"Justice Potter side-stepped this issue by stating that "the precise point at which experimental procedures become field testing is a matter of scientific judgment" and that this is not able to be reviewed. This demonstrates that Erma is allowed to make unchallenged decisions on the science.  Dodging the definition of genetic modification, just because it involves scientific judgments is a cop-out.  The fact that Erma can get it so wrong doesn't bode well for the future biosecurity of New Zealand," said MAdGE legal spokesperson, Kate Woodd.
The independent ERMA Review Report published last week, criticized the apparent favouritism extended by ERMA to the scientific evidence put forward by applicants in cases involving GE.
The same report commissioned by the Government, also found ERMA to be severely lacking in 49 critical areas.
MAdGE founder Alannah Currie said "all New Zealanders should be very afraid.  Our Government is promising to lift the moratorium on GE in October and we don't have adequate protection in place. Would you use a condom with 49 holes in it?'
In the wake of those findings the mothers are calling for ERMA to be dissolved immediately and a truly rigorous protective agency put in its place.

For further information please phone Maike Nevill on 09 849 2411 or 027 247 1375
2.Hold GM Company liable for contamination costs
7 July 2003

The biotechnology company, holding the gene patent for BT11 corn, need to be held liable and pay for the costs of the most recent contamination caused by their product.
Sunshine Coast- the company who have inadvertently sold GE corn to Japan, must not be used as a scapegoat by the biotech industry and left to carry the costs, and nor should the New Zealand public.
" We need strict liability laws which allow authorities to go back to the source of the problem - that is companies who have won regulatory approval and are promoting the environmental release of their patented products which then contaminate other non-GM products," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.
The New Zealand government should also require seed-importers to find an alternative source of seed for crops such as maize, which have undergone commercialised genetic engineering in the country-of-origin, and are more likely to be contaminated.
"It is a threat to our national bio-security to continue to import seed from countries where widespread contamination is most likely. We reject the Minister of the Environment's claims that there are no alternatives: we suggest she has never asked her officials to find them. That is something the government must now do," says Mr Carapiet.
The importation of certain kinds of seed leaves farmers in a bind if they want to grow GE Free products as they are dependent on MAF to test and approve incoming seed consignments.

MAF however cannot guarantee 100% GE Free product, but an obvious precautionary step is to not buy seed from countries were regulation is already known to have failed.
The biotech industry has got away with contamination of food supplies particularly maize for too long, most notably the contamination of corn in Mexico: its centre-of-origin.
"The only way to stop the insidious progress of GM constructs into our food supply is to hold the companies concerned liable" says Jon Carapiet. "If a company patents a gene it must also accept responsibility for it when it causes harm or contaminates another crop".
It is inappropriate that the NZ public will have to fork out for MAF services, the destruction of GE contaminated crop and any mitigation required. Genetic tags identifying companies producing these unwanted products should be introduced to allow them to be prosecuted for contaminating crops.

Some provision for these companies to be charged for contaminating our crops and soil should be inserted into the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill now before the Select Committee.

Urgent explanation is also needed from MAF / ERMA about why they are considering pollen-drift as a cause of contamination. What field-trials have taken place that would cause such contamination, and why were controls not in place to prevent it?
It is of great concern that so little is understood about the mechanisms of GE crops, once they are in the environment that there is no understanding of whether the gene constructs may have infected the ground and ensuing crops, or via use as feed - animals entering the food supply.

The research the government has initiated must be completed and independently reviewed before the moratorium is lifted.

 Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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