Organic farmers in New Zealand have made an impassioned response to yesterday’s report from the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which recommends approval be granted to field trials of GM crops and suggests new proposals for the conditional release of GM organisms.
Farmers have threatened to dig up GM crops, reported the New Zealand Herald, and proclaimed themselves “absolutely staggered and gutted… we cannot understand how they can ignore and refute the submissions made by organic producers, both local and international.”
Tony Higginson, representing the Far North Organic Growers and Producers, said farmers will make fresh submissions and protest strongly if the government accepts the reports recommendations and statement that it is “impracticable that New Zealand be GM-free.”
Meanwhile Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons said she was bitterly disappointed with the recommendations of the report as it failed to take a long-term view of the issue. She warned New Zealand’s organic export market could be destroyed if the government adopted the recommendations the report contained.
However, she stressed also that her stance, and that of her party, was hardly radical, as the Greens are simply calling for more secure safeguard. She reminded the coalition government that it is reliant on the voting support of the Green Party and said nobody should take its support for granted. This is being interpreted as a veiled threat that the party would withdraw its support if the government accepts the recommendations to allow cautious field trials of GM organisms.
As expected, the biotech and research sectors in New Zealand greeted the report with cautious optimism that the voluntary moratorium on new research into GMOs can now be relaxed. The moratorium, which was negotiated to put research on hold while the Commission filed its report, lapses at the end of August.
The government will respond to the report and the 49 recommendations it made by the end of September. Some of the recommendations are aimed at encouraging a wider debate and would see the appointment of a biotechnology commissioner and a bioethics council.