Sludge Report #117 – Inside The Pro-GE Lobby

Published: Wed 24 Oct 2001 12:44 AM
In this Edition: Inside The Pro-GE Lobby - 1. Cover Note - 2. Lobbying/advocacy programme - 3. Draft Letter To The Prime Minister - Fed farmers lobbies its members on GM
NOTE: Authors of this report will be anonymous and wide ranging, and occasionally finely balanced. Indeed you are invited to contribute: The format is as a reporters notebook. It will be published as and when material is available. C.D. Sludge can be contacted at The Sludge Report is available as a free email service..Click HERE - to subscribe...
Sludge Report #117
Inside The Pro-GE Lobby
This week the Pro-GE lobby is in overdrive.
Next Monday Cabinet will be finalising its position on the question of what to do with the findings of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification’s (RCGM) report.
All the indications are that the Government will kick for touch with another two year “voluntary” moratorium on GE field trials. The previous voluntary moratorium expired at the end of August and was extended till Halloween to allow the Government to decide what to do.
As the Government is effectively the owner of all the significant research institutions in the country it is in a very good position to encourage the "voluntary" consent of the nation's scientists.
This form of extension of the moratorium is widely thought to be the least active position that the Green Party would consider sufficient.
Meanwhile for the government’s GE hawks it has the appearance of being something less than an legislative ban on agricultural genetic engineering, even if in practice it means the same thing.
However, as the leaked emailed documents attached below indicate, the pro-GE lobby consider this unacceptable.
These documents, containing a Pro GE “insiders view” of the debate, have already been tabled in Parliament widely widely distributed on the internet.
They show that with the pro-GE cause on the ropes, the lobby, led by the Life Sciences Network and Monsanto, is now pulling out all the stops.
As a matter of strategy they appear to have decided that predictions of dire economic consequences is their best bet.
Much of the fruit of this lobbying effort has been appearing in Scoop’s Politics and Science wires over the past week, and more is expected this week.
When following the debate it is helpful to have these documents for reference as they add a considerable amount of context, and after all it is your food they are talking about here.
C.D. Sludge
1. Cover Note
Apologies to those of you I have not been able to reach by phone over the past 24 hrs but I promised those that I have some action over the GM debate.
For those of you I have spoken to directly please ignore this next paragraph. All others I would appreciate you reading on.
It's time to get off the fence, we have two weeks left to make a stand against the Greens. If technology loses this debate, we will all collectively loose. This is not necessarily an argument about whether you personally support the findings of the Royal Commission. We have found over the past couple of months that we cannot win this debate with a "Sound Science" rationale.
The Greens have done too good a job with the "fear factor" as their key tactic and I find it hard, even in my personal life with my own family and friends to position science against fear, it's very hard and you need a substantial amount of knowledge. Monsanto has spent a lot of time and energy and taken a lot of heat within this debate.
The pro-lobby needs the support of you, the New Zealand Agriculture business, because this is now a political debate. Our economy is, at the very best, fragile. Agriculture, right now represents over 60% of our total GDP, we have the threat of a global recession and to cap it all we need to find 1 billion + bucks to keep our national airline!!. I don't believe this is a great time to "smack" New Zealand Agriculture, because rest assured you might think you can avoid voting on this, but you can't.
Your business will be negatively impacted by a vote against the Royal Commission findings as will every business with an association to Agriculture in New Zealand. Our scientific resource will dwindle and with it innovation and new products. When do you make your stand ?, now or when we are being lead to be " clean and green" or when we go organic? That is the Green Party plan.
It's a tough call, I know, but by not voicing your concern to local politicians and the Prime Minister and talking to colleagues, friends and family who sink or swim by having a buoyant agricultural economy you effectively vote GREEN. I, personally, want New Zealand farmers and the Agricultural business sector, at the very least, to have a choice.
On that note and for the benefit for those that care enough to act now, attached is a draft letter which I ask you to read or adapt to your own business and then post to your local MP and copy in Helen Clark. We CAN make a difference, but we don't have a lot of time. I'd also ask that you forward this to anyone who you might see as adding weight to this campaign.
Attached also is the Life Science Network lobbying campaign material.
Thank you one and all for your valuable time in discussion
NZ Country Manager
2. Lobbying/advocacy programme
We have at most 15 days The Greens have successfully sidelined the Royal Commission Report We must focus on the economic and business consequences of constraining our ability to develop GM The science is no longer an important issue
The campaign for a future including GM moves into a much more political phase from this Thursday. Officials are due to deliver final papers to the Cabinet Policy Committee.
We understand the Cabinet POL Committee will consider the papers and conduct the debate prior to a final position being presented to the full Cabinet for sign-off on 29 October.
So, during the next three weeks it will be extremely important for organisations to seek meetings with key Ministers to impress on them the importance of a national interest approach to the decisions they make about the future of GM in New Zealand.
Key Ministers
Rt Hon Helen Clark, Prime Minister
Hon Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister
Hon Pete Hodgson, Minister of RS
Hon Marian Hobbs, Minister for the Environment
Hon Michael Cullen, Minister of Finance
Hon Paul Swain, Minister of Commerce
Hon Jim Sutton, Minister of Agriculture
Hon Annette King, Minister of Health
Hon Sandra Lee, Minister of Conservation
Hon Parekura Horomia, Minister of Maori Affairs
Hon Steve Maharey, Minister of Social services & Employment
Hon Trevor Mallard
Key influencers within Labour and the Alliance are:
Heather Simpson, PM's minder
Mike Munro, PM's Chief Press Secretary
Mike Williams, NZLP Party President
Rick Barker, Chief Whip
Damien O'Connor, Chairman Agriculture Select Committee
Clayton Cosgrove
Mahara Okeroa
Graham Kelly
Mark Peck
Matt McCarten, Alliance President
David Cuthbert, Caucus Secretary
Willie Jackson
Laila Harre
Other Parties
It will be important to keep other parties in the loop and to ensure they have early warning of the line of argument we are following.
National Party
Dr Nick Smith
Dr Paul Hutchison
Jenny Shipley
Bill English
Maurice Williamson
Wayne Mapp
Georgina Te HeuHeu
Lockwood Smith
ACT Party
Gerry Eckhoff
Stephen Franks
Ken Shirley
Owen Jennings
NZ First
Winston Peters
Ron Mark
Doug Woolerton
The key messages we should take into the meetings are set out below.
It is important that we focus most attention on the key decision makers who will be the Cabinet Ministers but also that we ensure the Labour and Alliance caucuses have people in them who will be prepared to argue the pro-case. Remember - everything we set out below is exactly what the Greens will also be doing:
* It is vital organisations draw up a list of MP's they are going to ask for a meeting.
* Industry organisations should arrange for affected member companies to become part of this intensive lobbying project.
* The lists of MP's who have been approached should be sent to the LSN office for co-ordination and identification of individuals who are missed out.
* Please include local and list MP's from the caucuses if there are people who are briefed and willing to undertake this activity. They can best be approached at their regular weekly clinics which are generally advertised in the local community newspapers.
* Please ensure the outcome of any meeting with an MP is reported back to the LSN office for collation.
* It is important to approach Ministers in writing and to copy to them a statement about the subject matter to be discussed. The leave behind material (see below) will give you some resources to use.
Leave behind material
We will have leave behind material available for people who are going in to meetings with MP's in a few days.
This will be able to be obtained from the Life Sciences Network Office. It will be in electronic format for people to be able to put on their own letterhead.
We are producing a tightly scripted economic analysis by Infometrics which focuses on ensuring Cabinet Ministers understand the risks which are currently confronting the economy (drought; global trade; business collapses such as Air New Zealand; impacts of September 11) and the need to keep opportunities and options open to minimise economic risk. The analysis will dismiss the organic movement's analysis produced by Lincoln University.
We will have a compendium of the published Editorial support for GM. We will crystallise, succinctly, the key messages (as below).
Key Messages
* The Royal Commission report shows New Zealand will expose itself to significant economic risk if it shuts off options and opportunities - a risk which it can't afford to take in the uncertainty of the global market place today We will turn our economy into a developing country economy
* We have a robust regulatory system which the Royal Commission has recommended enhancements to - the compliance requirements already make GM research a marginal activity - further constraints will tip the balance for companies like Fonterra, AgResearch and others ERMA & ANZFA already make sure nothing unsafe is released into the environment - Fonterra is not scare-mongering when they say they will move their research off-shore if they can't do it here
* Loss of research capacity will lead to loss of investment in agriculture and other core biology based industries as comparative and competitive advantage is eroded and never able to be recovered No or low investment means we will turn our economy in a developing country economy
* The cost of re-entry will become prohibitive as the technology moves rapidly beyond us We won't be able to afford to buy it later
* The best caution is case by case assessment of proposals which may lead to commercialisation of GM so we can separate the useful from the marginal - a moratorium prevents consideration Mexico proves a moratorium provides no protection for the environment
* Research shows, when people understand the controls they become more comfortable with the development of GM. The Government must invest in public education about the control of GM in NZ
* Research into issues like horizontal gene transfer, cross-pollination, effective separation distances etc should be undertaken urgently as a public good science activity and each application should reference the base research as part of case by case assessment otherwise it is meaningless
The opponents case is built on misinformation and misrepresentation which the Government has a duty to expose.
3. Draft Letter To The Prime Minister
Draft letter
Rt Hon Helen Clark, Prime Minister
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON Dear Prime Minister (or local MP or both)
No Further Moratorium on GM Field Trials in New Zealand
As the principal owner/operator/manager.... of ................... Business I am greatly concerned that recent developments since the handing down of the recommendations from the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification are signaling moves by the Government to ignore much of this clear direction in favour of imposing a long term moratorium.
The Royal Commission report shows New Zealand will expose itself to significant economic risk if it shuts off options and opportunities - a risk which it can't afford to take in the uncertainty of the global market place today. Our economy is already very unsettled, turning away from new technologies in agriculture will surely further this uncertainty. I fear this will negatively impact on my business.
Loss of research capacity will lead to loss of investment in agriculture and other core technology based industries, as comparative and competitive advantage is eroded and never able to be recovered. New Zealand's income is dependent on agriculture and, therefore, dependent on improvement through technology. The potential loss of scientific expertise, closing of businesses associated with agriculture and total rejection of investment by international companies will clearly serve to speed the decline in the New Zealand economy. I fear this will negatively impact on my business.
The extensive review of gene technology undertaken by the Royal Commission clearly outlined cautious but necessary steps for New Zealand to follow to ensure this country can move forward comfortably with the development and introduction of this technology in order to benefit all.
To falter along this path because of the mounting pressure from Green groups who continue to challenge our Government based on emotion and unfounded rhetoric would simply be disastrous for our economy and the well being of our country. This WILL negatively impact on my business.
I trust you and your colleagues consider this significant negative impact and compare it to the positive outlook we need in this country right now. A positive outcome to the Royal Commission will boost the confidence that we are a technology based nation as well as giving us, the rural business sector, the confidence to continue to invest in our future.
Yours .....
Fed farmers lobbies its members on GM
Communiqué - we need the names of people who are prepared to endorse the Communiqué to Parliament
Dear Federated Farmers member,
Federated Farmers, as a member of the Life Sciences Network, is concerned that the Government may choose to ignore the recommendations of the Royal Commission which were to proceed with GM on a cautious basis. The government appears to wish to extend the moratorium on GM which was put in place to allow the Royal Commission to consider all the issues. FFNZ considers this is not necessary as the legislative framework, which the Royal Commission said was robust, is in place to allow for case by case decision making. Also we are concerned that the economic impact on New Zealand because of loss of science capability and investment decisions will be significant.
In view of these concerns could you please advise by replying to this email if you are prepared to put your name to the communique outlined below.
The Cabinet Policy Committee will be making its decision on the Royal Commission of Genetic Modification soon. It is important that New Zealanders send a clear message to Government on this issue.
FFNZ is very pleased to see that prominent New Zealanders such as Sir Alan Wright, Dick Hubbard, Sir Dryden Spring, Sir Gil Simpson, Sir Rod Weir, Sir Ron Trotter, Sir Tipene O'Regan and Alison Holst are included amongst those who have recognised the importance of this technology for NZ's future and have endorsed the communique.
Set out below you will find the final version of a carefully crafted Communiqué about the Report of the Royal Commission to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, Leader of the Opposition, Party Leaders and all MPs.
It is intended that this communiqué be endorsed by New Zealanders who command high respect in the community. We already have a number of key endorsements but many more are needed.
If you wish to add your name to the communiqué please reply to this email. Press Reply. Type your name in the subject area after the RE:FFNZ. Then press Send
Please note that the names of those who endorse the communiqué will become public.
Alistair Polson
President FFNZ
We, the concerned persons who have personally endorsed this communiqué, wish to make clear to the Government and all Members of Parliament, that we wholeheartedly support the process undertaken by the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which we believe to have been the most thorough examination of the issues surrounding the use of GM in our community.
We further believe the Government and the public can be confident:
* that all the relevant issues about the use of this technology in New Zealand were given careful and independent consideration, and also
* that the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission are based on careful analysis of the evidence.
Thus, the Government should adopt the central conclusion of the Royal Commission; that we should preserve our opportunities to use these technologies, as part of the blueprint to lift living standards for all New Zealanders through a knowledge-based economy.
Further, we consider that the recommendations in the report reflect a prudent and careful case-by-case assessment of the opportunities and risks of GM technology for New Zealand.
We believe such an approach preserves democracy and allows for choices to be made based on scientifically established facts balanced by the wider cultural and social concerns of the community.
The decisions the Government and Parliament will make on the issues surrounding this technology will have profound ramifications for generations to come.
The economic, health, environmental and social benefits to be derived from the prudent use of genetic modification, as identified in the Royal Commission's Report, clearly demonstrate New Zealand places itself at serious risk should it reject the Royal Commission's approach.
We commend the Commission's Report to the Government and all Parliamentarians and urge its acceptance by Parliament as the cornerstone of future legislative and regulatory action.
Anti©opyright Sludge 2001
C.D. Sludge
Scoop Publisher
Alastair Thompson is the co-founder of Scoop. He is of Scottish and Irish extraction and from Wellington, New Zealand. Alastair has 24 years experience in the media, at the Dominion, National Business Review, North & South magazine, Straight Furrow newspaper and online since 1997. He is the winner of several journalism awards for business and investigative work.
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