INDEPENDENT NEWS

Shortsightedness pushes country in wrong direction

Published: Tue 1 Oct 2002 09:10 AM
"Shortsighted" push for GE Potatoes and GE Cows takes country in wrong direction at Taxpayers' expense.
The Government's disorganised plan for a "national biotechnology strategy" and a fear of upsetting some business-sectors is costing other businesses and the New Zealand Public money because it is so short sighted. Despite clear market signals that key developments in biotechnology will fail unless they are in line with community values and international consumer trends, New Zealand's reputation and future economic gains from organic food, GE-Free exports, and tourism, is being undermined.
The proposal to have "GE potatoes" conditionally released into the New Zealand market must already be deemed an economic disaster, having cost thousands of dollars to develop but with no market for GE potatoes anywhere in the world.
"No more Public funds should be wasted in researching GE potatoes given the global market has collapsed. McDonalds in the USA announced many months ago that they would join the other main users of potato products and reject all GE potatoes," says Jon Carapiet from GE -Free NZ ( in food and environment).
"The GE-potato market disappeared overnight yet New Zealand researchers are have still in the dark. The scientists seem to be out of touch with the marketing- reality." says Mr Carapiet.
Fonterra's backing for AgResearch's GE Cows with a cocktail of human, and other genetic material is also a sign that companies are risking economic success because they are not taking their consumers seriously. These 10-year animal experiments would be wholly offensive to Maori, the wider New Zealand Community and most of the consumers in our overseas markets.
Fonterra's own research shows over 60% of people in New Zealand want more organic dairy products, but that is not the direction Fonterra are taking. Instead the Life Sciences industry seem to be glad that conversion to organic production and export opportunities are not being maximised.
" Agresearch , HortResearch and other Publicly-funded organisations are literally wasting taxpayers money by pursuing the wrong kind of projects," says Mr Carapiet. " why are they ignoring their customers: the consumer?"
Without a proper government strategy that is ethical and brings all New Zealanders on -board New Zealand is vulnerable to being taken advantage of by less-scrupulous biotechnology companies. For example, Monsanto were keen to have a release of Genetically engineered crops a few years ago, but which was not progressed and which the Royal Commission subsequently found had no benefits for New Zealand.
"A dairy-food exporting country which even considers yet alone approves the use of human and other species' genes in its food-animals can only be seen as a 'soft-touch 'for the overseas and local companies wanting to undertake the most contentious, and cruel experiments envisaged. Other countries would just say no."
"It is bizarre that AgResearch believes its priority is to put Human genes into Cows instead of taking a strategic view of uses for gene technology that are appropriate to New Zealand science. New Zealand risks becoming a laughing stock as well as losing out economically."

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