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Government can't afford to ignore rural slump

National says it's not surprised farmers are starting to tighten their belts as confidence in the sector begins to slide.

A Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey out today shows most farmers less optimistic about the next 12 months, income expectations down and investment intentions hitting the lowest levels seen since 2000.

"What this points to is increasing worry in the sector as commodity prices soften and our exchange rate rises," says National's Agriculture spokesman, David Carter.

"But what it also shows is the growing belief amongst farmers that this Government has forgotten that the agricultural sector is the number one contributor to our economy.

"The Government is doing nothing to help farmers as they face tougher times ahead.

"Not only is it lamely handling the numerous biosecurity breaches which have seriously jeopardised New Zealand agriculture in recent months, but it also continues to hobble the sector with unwieldy legislation - the Resource Management Act, Kyoto, ACC, Local Government and OSH.

"The Government can't afford to continue to ignore the rural sector because, as everyone knows, when the agricultural economy slumps the whole country suffers.

"For months now, National has warned the Government to be ready for its first real test in heartland New Zealand. But it's been too complacent and arrogant - and now it is too late," says Mr Carter

Demand for Independent review of GM regulation prompted by US warnings.

GE Free NZ ( in food and environment) are calling on ANZFA and ERMA to independently reassess and update their segregation, liability and safety protocols in the light of warnings from overseas that regulation of "approved GM " is failing.

New evidence from Science magazine shows that the US FDA has not the resources or the monitoring capability for post marketing GE studies. Similar failings in the approach taken by New Zealand regulators would be devastating for this country's biosecurity and exports.

The results from countries with full commercialisation contradict claims by biotech lobby groups that field-trials in the UK show farmers can easily meet the management requirements for co-existence of GE and GE-Free production.

Two recent reports have renewed international concern that the approval process for GM organisms is collapsing, something already signalled in Mexico and Brazil where illegal GE crops have been discovered.

One study out of Brussels raises concerns that the FDA relies solely on GE safety studies from industry. Another report -The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology -shows that post market rules for biotech are outdated and are not able to keep up with the required level of enforcement.

In New Zealand ERMA is not an enforcement body and both they and MAF have inadequate testing and monitoring regimes to prevent similar problems if New Zealand was to allow commercial GM release.

ERMA admits it has undertaken no research into effects on soil from the PPL transgenic sheep trials, and has failed to follow up the Royal Commission's concerns about the Northland Tamarillo trial. Full histological studies into the deaths of GE animals are not fully carried out, and abnormalities are investigated as to whether they are part of the transgenic manipulation.

"GE is an ongoing world scientific experiment and the results are not good. Consumers, producers and farmers are still not convinced that GE is better than natural foods" says Claire Bleakley "Fears that genetic engineering could have sped up the pace of horizontal transfer of diseases from animal to human are beginning to arise. Scientists have called on the WHO to see if there is a link between naked viral expression vectors and the rapid mutation of the SARS virus"

Once GE is released into our country contamination from field-silo to table will be difficult to avoid. Canada has now been told that it cannot grow conventional or organic soy or canola as 75% of the seed stock is contaminated.

Contamination of our food with pharmplants could lead to large quantities of grain being burnt as in the Gisborne saga.




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