17 Jun 2015

Fed Farmers accused of pressuring Govt

2:00 pm on 17 June 2015

Anti genetic engineering body, GE Free New Zealand, has accused Federated Farmers of putting pressure on the Government and Treasury to loosen the precautions around genetically engineered organisms, by changing the law.

Federated Farmers president William Rolleston.

William Rolleston Photo: RNZ / Jemma Brackebush

This week Federated Farmers announced it is forming new advisory teams with the aim of giving itself a more effective voice in the public debates on water use and science issues, such as genetic modification.

Its science and innovation group will include a panel of outside scientific advisers.

The Federation's president William Rolleston said it was setting up the teams to give itself some scientific grunt.

But GE Free NZ's president Claire Bleakley said the teams would lobby on issues that included the adoption of genetic engineering .

"Federated farmers has always argued that GM should be part of the tool kit that farmers should be able to use.

"And they've set up the science and innovation team to reclaim that choice, by putting extreme pressure on the government to adopt GMOs and to do this, they want the laws around the HASNO Act to be loosened.

"However, changing the law will not make genetic engineering safe. It will only open the public up to toxic chemicals, it will produce unsafe food, weed and pest resistance and lower yields will also be something that New Zealand will have to deal with."

Mr William Rolleston said it was nonsense to claim that it, or anyone else, was seeking to loosen all the precautions around genetically engineered organisms.

But he said there was still a need to review the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, so that it takes a risk based approach, not a technology based one.

Mr Rolleston said it was time for an open and science based debate on the issue.

But Ms Bleakely of GE Free said as a starting point there needed to be clarification on what each side meant by science.

"GE Free NZ is relying on published journal science that has been peer reviewed, and much of the hypotheses or claims of safety are actually unpublished and they are industry data.

"And so until this debate can even be clarified for the public and for the media to actually get clarity on, we need to set the guidelines of what each of us means by science."

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