GE Moratorium Reinstatement Bill


Lets hope we get more Maori and Green MPs this year! We could lose Act and United Common sense party!

Many thanks to all the individuals and organsiations who have supported Ian Ewen-Street's GE Moratorium Reinstatement Bill. Despite all our best efforts, the will of 70% of New Zealanders who would like New Zealand to
remain GE free has been ignored and the Bill was defeated in Parliament last night. Here is how the parties voted:

 

A party vote was called for on the question, That the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Genetically Modified Organisms Moratorium Reinstatement) Amendment Bill be now read a first time.

Ayes 25
New Zealand First 13; Green Party 9; Progressive 2; Mâori Party 1.
Noes 95
New Zealand Labour 51; New Zealand National 27; ACT New Zealand 9; United Future 8.
Motion not agreed to.

Copy of Ian's speech to the House:

HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES AND NEW ORGANISMS (GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
MORATORIUM REINSTATEMENT) AMENDMENT BILL

First Reading

IAN EWEN-STREET (Green): I move, That the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Genetically Modified Organisms Moratorium Reinstatement) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I will move that this bill be considered by the Primary Production Committee. In the 3 years since the royal commission reported back we have picked up a considerable amount of knowledge about genetic engineering, and I would have to say that almost without exception, it has been very bad news for the GE industry. As members will know, I have sent each one of them a personal letter outlining some of my concerns about GE so I will not go into them in detail now. I want to concentrate on a couple of issues that I think clarify why I see that this technology is fatally flawed in terms of exposing it to the wider environment in New Zealand.

Perhaps the most damming thing of all has occurred from a research project called the human genome project. Members may recall that this project was designed to identify the human genetic profile and to understand the
relationship between all of the genes that we pass on to from generation to generation, that is, heritable genes; the genes that give us eye colour, skin colour, susceptibility to disease, and things like that. It was a fine
ideal. The people working on that project identified that something like 100,000 different heritable genes in the human body. They went on their way looking for the 100,000 genes that actually related to those outcomes.

But the human genome project scored a spectacular own goal. Far from proving that this was a precise science and they could map all of these genes to the outcomes one on one, they found that instead of 100,000 genes there were only 30,000. So they could not map one gene to one outcome; they had to map one gene to multiple outcomes?on average, about 3½ per gene. So they had multiple traits from one gene. What is now becoming clear as a result of this human genome project is that the genes do not work in isolation. They work with each other, and they work with the proteins that exist in each cell. That is what determines the outcome of any manipulation. We now know that not only does this make it enormously more difficult to isolate a desired gene to have a particular outcome, but it is also impossible to know what additional undesired outcomes will come from the same gene. Let me quote from the US Government website: "Outcomes are specified by the gene sequence and by the proteins in the same cell." It then goes on to say that studies of the relationship will be the focus of research for many decades to come. We are just in the infancy of this science. Members should have a think about. If we take a gene from the human body each cell has the same DNA strength.

Every cell in our body has DNA. But our cells have different functions. The same DNA is found in our toenail cells as is found in our liver cells, blood cells, and eyeball cells. So if we were take a DNA string from there and put it into some other animal, for argument?s sake, do we know how it will express? The answer is no, we do not know. We lay people can take several things from this. First of all, moving a gene from one location to another
does not give a specific outcome. Despite what people in the industry say, it does not give a specific outcome; it gives multiple outcomes. Secondly, changing one gene in the sequence may lead to a cascading sequence of
events?not just one event. The academic literature is full of words like "may", "appear", and "believe". Clearly, biologists do not understand the chemistry of life. This also will put to rest the idea of substantial equivalents?the idea that if it looks the same, smells the same, and tastes the same it is the same. It may appear that way, but it is inevitable there will be other outcomes that we do not necessarily see upfront. For thinking people this surely is game, set, and match for genetic engineering.

Hon Marian Hobbs: Oh!

IAN EWEN-STREET: It is game over, I say to the Minister. One simply cannot say that this is a precise science. In fact, we have proved that it is a very imprecise science. If we take that bit of information in conjunction
with the way consumers in our elite markets overseas treat genetic engineering, we can see we are on to a loser. But we should think about what is happening to the biotech companies. Of the top 50 biotech corporates,
last year 38 made losses. Overall, they lost $5.4 billion in 1 year, including those that made a profit. The *Wall Street Journal, that well-known left-wing rag, describes the industry as having yielded ?negative returns for decades and it generally digs its hole deeper every year.?

The consumer resistance to genetically modified foods in particular is powerful for New Zealand. We are a market-driven economy. We must listen to the market signals of the people who buy our food products, and those signals are crystal clear. People simply do not want to buy genetically engineered food. Look at the example of the United States and Canada, going back 5 or 6 years. America?s corn exports to the *European Union declined by 98 percent in 2 years. The Canadian canola growers lost 100 percent of their market in 2 years, and it has never recovered. At least those countries have a subsidy scheme so that the farmers actually survive. But in Argentina, which started growing GE* soy, the whole economy has become a *basket case.
I urge members to think about this.

We are at present trying to negotiate a free-trade deal with America. One of the conditions of any free-trade deal we may have with America is that it wants us to embrace genetic engineering. That is a bit strange. If genetic
engineering were so good, the Americans would be saying:"Hey, look, we don't mind having a free-trade deal with you, but you can't have our really good GE stuff; we're going to keep that to ourselves." But to put it as a
condition of a free-trade deal means there is something wrong with it and the thing that is wrong with it is that they cannot sell it. They cannot sell it to elite markets in the European Union, Japan, Australia, or anywhere else. They cannot sell it other than as stock feed. They cannot even give it away as aid to the Third World*. They are now working in a different market from us. They do not sell the same products. Our products are seen overseas as being clean, green, pure, natural, and very highly sought after. The prices we get in our overseas market are extremely good. Primary production exports are booming, despite the high dollar. We have a marketing opportunity made in heaven. Because we no longer compete with equivalent products from America, Canada, Argentina, and, to a certain extent, Australia, we can virtually name our price. They cannot sell their product. The only way they can get back into that market, having gone down this one-way street of GE, is to bring us down to the same level. That is why they want us to have GE in this country. It makes sense for us not to go the same way. I would like the Minister to pause for a moment and think about the ownership of patents. She is on record as saying that one day GE will pay for our health and education needs in this country.

Hon Marian Hobbs: That's not what she said.

IAN EWEN-STREET: It is in the Hansard, Minister. I urge her to check. Something like 97 percent of the patents are owned by overseas companies. So even if we did develop something in this country that was valuable, we still would not make money out of the patents; we would simply export all of that
profit. This moratorium gives us time. It gives us time to think, to say: "Let's have a cup of tea." Does anybody actually regret the fact that New Zealand is nuclear-free? No, they do not. Thinking people, by and large, do not. I recommend this bill to the House and urge members to support it going to the select committee.