Public opposition growing in NZ to lifting of GE ban/Taiwan to label (24/8/2003)

* Public opposition growing to lifting of GE ban
Public opposition growing to lifting of GE ban
National News - Environment, 23 August 2003

New Zealand opinion has swung heavily against releasing genetically engineered (GE) organisms into the environment, according to a survey released today.
A nationwide survey of 801 people has found that 68.6  per cent want to extend the present three-year ban on releasing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from containment, just two months before the ban is due to end on October 29.

Those who said commercial release of GMOs should be "banned for good" jumped from 23.2 per cent in June last year to 37.8 per cent in the latest poll. 

Those willing to allow commercial release "under strict conditions" plunged from 66.7 per cent to 52 per cent.

Those who felt GE should be "exploited as much as practical" slipped slightly from 6.1 per cent to 5 per cent.
The Herald-DigiPoll survey was taken between August 12 and 17 and had a 3.5 per cent margin  of error.

It coincides with a worldwide consumer backlash against GE food, with anti-GE sentiment in June ranging from 55 per cent in the United States to 89 per cent in France.

The Government is under intense pressure from exporters such as Zespri, which trade on New Zealand's "clean green" image in these markets,  to extend the present GE ban, at least for food.

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said yesterday that if GE crop breeder  Monsanto "comes down to New Zealand and says we want to do a full release, I don't think they have got a hope in hell of being able  to get that". 

But she said a conditional release of GE pine trees "might go ahead".

"It ain't food," she said.

Five Australian states have imposed bans of one to five years to stop planting of GE canola - effectively drawing a line against GE food, even though GE cotton is already grown widely in several states.
But New Zealand exporters such as the dairy giant Fonterra and forestry processor Carter Holt Harvey, want the GE ban to end in October as planned. 

NZ First MP Brian Donnelly, who chairs Parliament's education and science  committee which is considering the terms for "conditional release" of GMOs after October, will tell the NZ First caucus on Tuesday that  it should consider extending the GE ban for food and crops.

He expressed "real concerns" about whether the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) "is in a position to make the economic judgements that they will have to make".
The authority's 60 staff have expertise on environmental risks, but  the agency has no economists or experts on international markets.

Ms Hobbs said yesterday that Erma would get an extra $196,000 this  year to implement recommendations made in a recent review, plus $56,000  to strengthen its ability to assess the economic effects of GE releases  by October. 

It expects two applications for conditional releases of GMOs in the year to next June.
Some of Labour's Maori MPs, already angry with the Government's decision not to allow Maori title to the foreshore and seabed, are passionately opposed to mixing genes from different species.

Maori caucus chairman Mita Ririnui said the issue was one of three priorities for Maori, along with the foreshore and Treaty of Waitangi settlements. 

The Maori caucus will debate its stance on the GE ban on Tuesday night.

But Small Business Minister John Tamihere said GE foods were being developed overseas and New Zealand could not "build a moat around  us that will protect us".

"The so-called 'cautious approach', which we are crunching through Cabinet at the moment, will put enough safeguards in place to allow  me to say I think we should proceed," he said.

At the very least, the Government seems likely to amend the bill on conditional release to require Erma to consider the potential wider economic costs as well as the economic benefits of GE releases.

The amended bill is also likely to clarify the powers of city and district  councils to create GE-free zones near organic farms, natural reserves  and other areas that may be at risk.

Kaipara, Waitakere and Nelson have already declared themselves GE-free and Rodney has declared that it is organic-friendly.

However, National party environment spokesman Nick Smith said the National caucus had invited Zespri and the Sustainability Council to put their case against GE, but was not convinced.

"We have looked at, for example, Australia. Has there been an adverse impact on their non-GE products from the fact that they grow GE cotton?"  he said. "The answer is No"

Act and United Future also support ending the GE ban in October, leaving  the Greens as the only party clearly opposed.

The two Progressive MPs, like NZ First, have yet to decide.
August 23, 2003
The China Post [via Agnet]

The Chinese Department of Health (DOH) was cited as deciding yesterday to require all foods or beverages made of genetically modified (GM) soybeans and corn to be labelled clearly with their ingredients from next year on.

The new measure is necessary because as much as 95 percent of the soybeans consumed in Taiwan are imported from the United States, where around 80 percent of their soybeans have been genetically modified, an official at the health department's food division said.

A survey by the division finds that nearly 60 percent of the island's people are worried about safety of eating genetically modified foods, the official said.

A joint committee comprising of the department, the National Science Council and the Council of Agriculture will be in charge of drafting rules to regulate GM foods.

Chen Lu-hung, head of the food division, said the labelling plan will be implemented through three phases.

In the first phase, only GM crops need to be labelled clearly to distinguish them from normal crops.

The label should state that the foods "are genetically modified" or "contain GM (ingredients)," according to a United Evening News report.

The second phase will start Jan.1 next year, when certain the foods with GM ingredients - mainly soybeans and corn - exceeding five percent of their weight need to be separated from others. These foods include tofu, beancurd, soybean drinks, canned corns.

After the third phase goes into effect, scheduled for 2005, all foods that contain GM soybean and corns must have a GM label on them. But this excludes soybean sauce, salad oil, corn oil or corn-made syrup, the official said.

The department is now also considering imposing similar regulation on foodsmade of potato and papaya regardless of whether they are locally grown or imported according to the official.

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