One of the biggest-ever public protests - like anti-Vietnam marches of the 1960s (12/10/2003)

Many eye-witnesses told Agence France Presse "the event was one of the biggest-ever public protests, and on a par with mass anti-nuclear marches of the early 1980s and anti-Vietnam marches of the 1960s." (item 1)

"One of the oldest protesters, George Shierny, 82, said he felt betrayed by Labour, for whom he had voted all his life. 'Well, bugger. It's a democracy and numbers should count.' " (item 2)

"There are ways that we can take control back as Maori and we need to make it clear to this Government that they should not take for granted the Maori vote at the next elections, especially with how they are treating us in regard to key issues like genetic modification." (item 4)

"Four-fifths want GM ban" - headline (item 5)

Lots and lots of good images of the protests all around New Zealand here: http://www.indymedia.org.nz/ Scroll down the right hand side bar for links to more images. Links too to the GE-Free Register, the Take 5 campaign and the pledge to take part in direct action if the government fails to heed the publics outcry at the lifting of the moratorium.

"I'm a rugrat not a labrat" - child protester's T-shirt "Government Manipulated Oppression" - placard on Christchurch demo

1.Thousands march in bid to keep ban on genetically engineered food
2.Legal bid to extend GE moratorium
3.Parliament wears it well, wears it pink!
4.GE releases may endanger native life, says researcher
5.Four-fifths want GM ban
6.The Life Sciences Network guards the PM's postage
1.Thousands march in bid to keep ban on genetically engineered food
October 11, 2003
Agence France Presse, English [via Agnet]
AUCKLAND - Thousands of protesters marched in New Zealand Saturday in a last-ditch attempt to urge the government to maintain a ban on the release of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

Demonstrators of all ages, including many parents with young children, took to the streets in main city and town centres across the North and South Islands to protest against the lifting of the moratorium on the commercial growing of GE foods, mostly agricultural crops, at the end of October.

Auckland, New Zealand's largest city where nearly half the country's four million population live, saw the largest turnout, with organisers estimating around 30,000 people marched up the main street chanting anti-GE slogans, banging drums and carrying banners.

While police estimated the crowds were considerably smaller at 15,000, many eye-witnesses told AFP the event was one of the biggest-ever public protests, and on a par with mass anti-nuclear marches of the early 1980s and anti-Vietnam marches of the 1960s.
2.Legal bid to extend GE moratorium
Sunday Star Times, 12 October 2003

A late legal challenge has been made to the Waitangi Tribunal to stop the lifting of the GE moratorium.
Lawyers representing two groups of claimants made a late application to the tribunal on Friday to have their case against the release of GE heard before the moratorium is lifted.
It came as thousands of people took to the streets yesterday in protest marches demanding the moratorium stay in place. The biggest turnout was in Auckland, where an estimated 25,000 people blocked Queen St.
Maui Solomon, a lawyer acting for the supporting Waitangi Tribunal claimant, Wai 262, said the lifting of the moratorium would devalue New Zealand produce in the eyes of the world. The release would have a huge effect on Maori cultural and spiritual values.
The Wai 262 claim aims to protect genetic material in indigenous flora and fauna from exploitation.
It was welcomed by Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who said it would be significant if the tribunal came out with a strong finding against the release, despite it having no decision-making powers.
"It has only an advisory role - but it's very powerful advice that the government ignores at its peril," she said.
"Maori feel very strongly about the risk to species, to people's health, to native plants and animals, to whakapapa."
Solomon said the lifting of the moratorium was going ahead in the face of recommendations from the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification.
In the commission's final report, it recommended "all parties concerned work to resolve the Wai 262 and Wai 740 claims currently before the Waitangi Tribunal as soon as possible".
Judge Harvey, who heard the application, is expected to give a decision this week on whether the urgent hearing can go ahead.
Solomon said if the hearing did go ahead, the judge's report on it would not come out until after the moratorium was lifted, posing a problem for the government.
The government, if it wanted to respect the finding of the Waitangi Tribunal, would have to extend the moratorium voluntarily or legislate to extend it.
The relevance of the claim was dismissed by Associate Maori Affairs Minister John Tamihere and Environment Minister Marian Hobbs.
Tamihere said he was "comfortable" with the existing system. He pointed to the consultation by the bioethics committee and the Maori advisory group to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma).
"You can not, will not and should not have a Maori veto."
Hobbs said she was also aware of the application but was comfortable the system in which Erma reviewed cases on an individual basis would balance interests.
She said the same belief applied to the protesters' concerns.
"It is not about saying yes or no to GM. They (Erma) could say no to all (applications). I don't know."
The protests, just 18 days before the GE gates are due to open, were held across the country. Auckland had the largest march, with 1500 in Wellington and 2000 in Christchurch.
The carnival-style Auckland march ended at Myers Park, where former pop star and Madge leader Alannah Currie called for continued protest.
"GE is a science in its infancy. These GE plants and animals can spread across the country and we don't know what the results are. When scientists and politicians tell you they are safe, they are lying."
One of the oldest protesters, George Shierny, 82, said he felt betrayed by Labour, for whom he had voted all his life. "Well, bugger. It's a democracy and numbers should count."
Greenpeace spokesman Steve Abel said the protest was a "history-making event" on a par with anti-apartheid and anti-Vietnam movements of the past.

In Wellington, the crowd marched from Civic Square down Lambton Quay to hold a rally at parliament grounds.
Protester Valerie Morse said it was planned to establish an anti-GE tent city at parliament this month. A hunger strike would also take place.
Cold, showery weather did not dampen the anti-GE spirits of Christchurch marchers.
Financial planner Charles Drace told the rally GE would cut New Zealand's agricultural exports by a third.
"The only conclusion is New Zealand would go into permanent recession."

In Dunedin, about 1000 people joined yesterday's midday march down George St to the Dunedin Museum, after speeches in the Octagon.
In Timaru, about 200 protesters marched through the centre of town.
3.Parliament wears it well, wears it pink
Sunday Star Times, 12 October 2003

Wellington marchers yesterday plastered their pink message on parliament.  Some 1500 people, including many families with young children, stuck pink Post-It notes all over the plinth bearing the roaring statue of King Dick Seddon.
The great liberal leader was left trailing a pink petticoat. Other left-wing prime ministers suffered a similar humiliation, including a Helen Clark impersonator. She gave an aggressive speech denouncing the crowd and then lifted her shirt to reveal a bright pink bra.
It was that sort of march: Damp, but still spirited. Who says GE protesters lack style and a sense of humour?
"It's not just about our kai," one Maori sovereignty speaker told the crowd. "It's about the commodification of our whakapapa." The crowd applauded politely.
Medical student Caleb McCullough, 27, carried a black banner bearing the visage of Darth Vader. "We said no to nukes in the 1980s and we should say no to GE now."
Joan Clouston, retired but still an old-fashioned socialist, said American imperialism was behind both thenukes and GE food.
"Now that the government has confirmed our anti-nuclear stance, wouldn't it be great if it stood up to whoever is trying to push this bloody rubbish on us?" she asked.
Megan Seawright and her two-year-old daughter Stella Grace made the four-hour trip from Hastings for the march.
"For me it's an ethical issue," she said. "They're putting together things that in nature are never joined."
Then the Helen Clark impersonator, in an ugly rubber mask, started her harangue. Anyone who opposed GE was a conspiracy theorist, and "GE is safe", etc etc.
"But don't give up on me yet," she said, softening a little before scooping up her shirt and then fleeing into the crowd.
The impersonator, it turned out, was ecologist Peter Russell, who spends much of his professional life trying to deal with the environmental disasters caused by introduced pests.
"I see GE much the same way," he said, and admitted he was nervous before giving his speech. "I thought  the crowd would be hostile."
Pink stickies fluttered on King Dick's foundation, bearing a wonderful rainbow of messages. "Life is good", said one, mysteriously. "For a good time, ring 0800 GE Free," said another. "Stop Bio-Colonialism." said a third.
In the cause of GE, fashion statements can double as political statements. Madge Queen Maxine Blackheath was wearing a lacy pink bra - but outside her clothes. She wanted to wear just the bra, she said, "but it's too cold".
4.GE releases may endanger native life, says researcher
New Zealand Herald, 11.10.2003

This month's expiry of the moratorium on commercial release of genetically engineered organisms will place native flora and fauna at risk, says a Maori researcher.

Dr Leonie Pihama, director of the International Research Institute for Maori and Indigenous Education at Auckland University, said yesterday that the royal commission had given few Maori organisations a formal voice in its inquiry.

"Research undertaken by our institute on Maori views of genetic engineering clearly shows that our people are strongly critical of the lack of Government recognition of our rights as treaty partner to protect ourselves from such forms of manipulation," she said in a statement.

Dr Pihama recently returned from an "indigenous knowledge" conference in Michigan, where one speaker, Winona La Duke - a Native American activist and environmentalist - called for a moratorium on genetic research on wild rice.

Ms La Duke emphasised that wild rice - a native grass in North America - must be protected from manipulation and that universities that held genetic materials should safeguard the existence of the plant species in a natural state.

"We must take a similar stand here to safeguard our native plants, foods and animals, for future generations" Dr Pihama said.

She is a member of the Maori women's organisation Nga Wahine Tiaki o Te Ao, which made a formal presentation to to the royal commission.

"The commission process was a farce," she said.

"A very small number of Maori organisations were granted status to be heard, which again flies in the face of the Government's treaty obligations."

Another member of the Nga Wahine Tiaki o Te Ao lobby, Glenis Philip-Barbara, criticised the moratorium's expiry on October 29.

"We are grappling with a Labour Government that is going to lift a moratorium against the wishes of not only Maori but of the majority of New Zealanders."

Ms Philip-Barbara said the Government should not be allowed to risk the land, its people and future generations by engaging a science that was still largely untested.

Individual whanau, hapu and iwi should send a clear message to the Government and prospective GE investors that they were not welcome on Maori lands.

"There are ways that we can take control back as Maori and we need to make it clear to this Government that they should not take for granted the Maori vote at the next elections, especially with how they are treating us in regard to key issues like genetic modification," she said.

The Government has said that when the moratorium is lifted applications for GE releases will be assessed case by cases by the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

- New Zealand Press Association
5.Four-fifths want GM ban
THE PRESS, 11 October 2003

Fewer than one-fifth of Canterbury people support the Government's October 29 deadline for lifting the moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a Press survey has found.
The opinion poll, another of the Press' Community Issues surveys, has detected widespread unease over implications of genetic modification, as well as a strong desire for the public to be given more information about it.

The community appears divided in its assessment of the value of GMOs. The results follow the trend of a series of other recent polls on the issue which have found widespread public unease about the Government's approach to genetic modification.
The moratorium was imposed two years ago in the wake of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification which advised the country to proceed cautiously. The Government has refused to review the moratorium's lifting, with Environment Minister Marian Hobbs maintaining the Government's measures to control the release of GMOs are sound.
The release of the latest poll results coincides with a national day of protest by anti-GM groups today as the country counts down to the end of the ban.
Campaigners are resigned to the idea that their protests will not force a Government about-face, but they have vowed to keep fighting.
Protest organisers in Auckland expect about 20,000 will take part. A much smaller number is expected in Christchurch, where the rally is scheduled to start at 2pm on Worcester Boulevard near the museum.
Detailed findings of the survey, conducted for The Press by Opinions Market Research, included:
Just 18 per cent of respondents felt October 29 was an appropriate time frame for the moratorium to be lifted. While 26 per cent felt it should not be lifted at all, nearly half those surveyed felt it should be extended.
Canterbury people were in no doubt about the importance of the issue - 34 per cent rated it as "very important", and 44 per cent "quite important".
Four per cent thought having GMOs in society was very good; 32 per cent thought it quite good; 29 per cent quite bad; and 17 per cent very bad - a 36-46 good-bad split.
There was a much stronger feeling that the release of GMOs would have a negative effect on New Zealand's image - a key argument in the debate given the importance of the "clean, green" image to trade.
Two-thirds (66 per cent) thought the country's image would suffer; just 9 per cent thought it would benefit, and 19 per cent thought it would have no effect.
A small majority expressed unease about eating food they knew to have genetically modified content - 56 per cent said they would be not very happy or not at all happy to, but 34 per cent said they would be quite happy to and 7 per cent would be "very happy".
Two-thirds of people said there had been too little information provided about GMOs (21 per cent felt there had been about the right amount); 59 per cent of people felt they understood the GM issue quite or very well, but 41 per cent felt they had a poor understanding.
Forty-eight per cent of men considered GMOs to be very or quite good, compared with 26 per cent of women.
The phone survey was conducted last month and polled 600 people from Christchurch and Canterbury. It has a margin of error of 4 per cent.
6.The Life Sciences Network guards the PM's postage
Friday, 10 October 2003, 5:40 pm
Press Release: Econation

Media release: October 10, 2003
The Life Sciences Network guards the PM's postage

Organisers of a postcard campaign asking the Prime Minister to 'Hang On Helen' and not lift the moratorium on GM crops say they are astounded that the pro-GM Life Sciences Network has issued a media statement claiming that the Prime Minister may not allow the postcards into her mail box by refusing them access to bulk funded mail that allows New Zealanders to send mail free of charge to their elected representatives.

"Is this pro-GM lobby group privy to the management of the Prime Minister's mail?" asked Econation2020 organiser Brendan Hoare.

Mr Hoare said he found it extraordinary that a pro-GM lobby group appeared to have inside knowledge that the PM might refuse the postcards to be admitted to her mail box by denying the use of Parliamentary bulk funding for elector postage.

"It is every citizen's right to communicate directly with our Prime Minister at no cost," he said. "New Zealand faces precisely the great risk it faces now because pro-GM lobbyists like the Life Sciences Network count as Beehive insiders. All we are doing is enabling ordinary Kiwis to have a say.

"Since when did the Life Sciences Network become the guardians of the Prime Minister's mail?" said Mr Hoare. "We completely respect the need not to abuse a system that enables citizens to communicate with their elected leaders. But this is a critical issue for the future of our country as we think our Prime Minister is more fair-minded than that."

Mr Hoare said that the Econation2020 Trust was not an 'activist group' as the Life Science Network media statement claimed, but a group with a vision for New Zealand as an ecologically sound nation.

The postcard campaign was a moderate, pro-democratic contribution to the debate and for a pro-GM lobby group to indicate that the Prime Minister would refuse to hear New Zealander's views via the postcard campaign was disturbing, said Mr Hoare.

Those who send a postcard to Helen Clark on the issue stand to receive a free CD, featuring some of New Zealand's top musicians, including Che Fu, Moana and Nesian Mystic. The artists donated their work in support of the Hang On Helen campaign.

Mr Hoare said he suspected the real concern of the Life Science Network was that the Hang On Helen campaign did not comprise easily-deflected naked protesters outside Parliament or other stunts, but reflected the views of a majority of ordinary Kiwis that do not want GM crops in their fields.

"So far the response shows that many fair-minded middle New Zealanders do want to send the PM a polite yet firm simple message," said Mr Hoare.

The Hang On Helen campaign runs until October 30 at which time the first 5,000 respondents will be sent their free CD.

For further information:

Brendan Hoare
Executive Director
telephone: 025 2888 618

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