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Hollywood actor speaks out over GM crop trial (4/6/2007)

1.Actor speaks out over GM crop trial
2.Text of Sam Neill's letter

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1.Actor speaks out over GM crop trial
By PAUL EASTON
The Dominion Post, 4 June 2007
http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/thepress/4082964a10.html

After battling resurrected dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park, Kiwi actor Sam Neill should know a thing or two about the dangers of tinkering with nature.

The Hollywood star has come out swinging over a decision to allow field trials of genetically-modfied crops near Christchurch.

A 10-year trial growing pest-resistant GM foods was recently approved by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma).

Erma general manager, new organisms, Libby Harrison, said the field test will be subject to strict controls to ensure the crops stayed within the test site and did not enter the food chain.

But from his Queenstown home, Neill said the decision was "potentially disastrous for New Zealand farmers, primary producers, exporters and indeed the country".

Neill, who runs the environmentally friendly Two Paddocks wine label in Central Otago, said New Zealand's clean, green image was at risk with the move.

"At a time when New Zealand produce is unfairly being characterised as a criminal source of carbon, it must be self-evident that the perception of New Zealand as sustainable, GM free, clean and greener than ever must be nurtured at any cost."

Crop and Food research leader Dr Mary Christey, who will run the trial, said the goal of her research was to find ways to keep crops free from caterpillar damage without using synthetic pesticides. General manager, research, Prue Williams, said New Zealand scientists must continue to explore the benefits of GM technology.

But Neill called for the trial to be abandoned. He has a keen environmental focus, and is patron of the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust. He has also joined efforts to rein in subdivision around Queenstown.

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2.Text of Sam Neill's letter

ERMA's (Environmental Risk Management Authority) decision to allow a few scientists to grow GM vegetables at Lincoln beggars belief. Interesting science for a few men in white coats, but potentially disasterous for NZ farmers, primary producers, exporters and indeed the country.

At a time when NZ produce is (unfairly) being characterised as a criminal source of carbon [because of concerns over the food miles involved in exports], it must be self-evident that the perception of NZ as sustainable, GM-free, clean and greener than ever must be nurtured at any cost. Our survival depends on it.

ERMA should know better, the government should know better. The price of a butterfly-proof cauliflower [GM cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and forage kale modified with various, modified Bt toxins] is too high. The Government needs to intervene before the brains at Lincoln are let out of the lab.

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