INDEPENDENT NEWS

Geneticially Modified Tofu Hits Fan In Katikati

Published: Wed 20 Oct 1999 09:08 AM
Upton-on-line travelled to Katikati yesterday and addressed an earnest crowd of growers, croppers and concerned citizens on the issue of genetically modified organisms.
Katikati falls within the Coromandel electorate, the territory of National's Murray McLean. This kiwifruit and avocado producing region is within striking distance of Coromandel so it was expected that Jeanette Fitzsimon's supporters might have been lurking about. The format for the lunchtime address at the Katikati Memorial Hall lounge ominously contained yawning periods set aside for questions and answers.
Upton-on-line adopted the tactic of lecturing them at length on the inherently cautious approach taken by New Zealand to GMOs though the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms legislation and the Environmental Risk Management Authority.
After a while, eyes glazed over and hard wills were softened - or so it seemed. Drooping necks jerked back to life when Mr McLean wondered if there were any questions.
Upton-at-Katikati was accused of clouding the issues and genetically modified tofu was thrown into the debate. One lamented the nefarious influence of the United States and the bio-tech giant Monsanto, but rather undermined the gravity of the moment by concluding, "that to me is quite sinister, Minister".
Upton-on-line responded with the observation that "consumers will control this debate, not politicians". He reminded the audience that the New Zealand public enjoyed almost unique opportunities to be involved in this debate through the ERMA. He candidly admitted that nobody can rule out the risk of mistakes being made through genetic engineering, hence the cautious approach that had been adopted, but noted that such is the case in most areas of government policy and life in general. Zero risk policies are extremely unusual.
Possums, to return to an earlier motif from upton-on-line, present by far our greatest environmental challenge, not just through the native plants they eat, but also through the tons of 1080 poison sent after them. Genetic engineering might offer a desperately needed solution, down the line. The point is, that New Zealand scientists are now very much aware of (and taking into account) the public's nervousness.
* upton-on-line was staggered to learn that the Puma Dart factory of Katikati was the world's third largest supplier of dart boards. They, like most businesses in the area, enthused about their plans for expansion.
* calling in on a packing house at afternoon smoko can inject some colour into campaigning. Tasty ham sandwiches, (laid on by the bosses, we hasten to add, lest Mr McLoughlin renew his "treating" charge), put everyone in a good mood at the start. Winston Peters' name was raised on more than one occasion and was possibly in mind when one worker wondered if New Zealand wasn't sliding towards a Pakistan-style military coup. In benevolent mood (brought on, no doubt, by the sumptuous feed) upton-at-Katikati opined that New Zealanders didn't have the energy for this brand of theatricals.
ends

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