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GE Debate is Heated in New Zealand

Earth Island Journal
March 22, 2002

Xena's Genephobia; Asia; genetic engineering; Brief Article

NEW ZEALAND (AOTEAROA) -- Last September, a crowd of
10,000 marched down the main street of Auckland to Aotea Square
in a bitter cold downpour to protest genetic engineering (GE). Outfitted
with banners, costumes and hundreds of colorful umbrellas, the marchers
called for making New Zealand a GE-Free country. It was the largest
protest march in 20 years.

"There was chanting and music ranging from drums, to bagpipes, to DJs with
rock music," reports Meriel Watts, director of New Zealand's Soil and Health
Association (SHA). "The mood was positive and happy -- we will win this
struggle for our rights, our food, our environment."

While most activists insisted on no commercial releases of GE products and
no field trials, indigenous Maori activists held to an even firmer line,
arguing for an end to GE experiments in the labs, since GE research
constitutes "tampering with life" and is spiritually and culturally
unacceptable.

With an election approaching and the government's coalition partner, the
Alliance Party, openly opposed to commercial releases of GE crops, Prime
Minister Helen Clarke will find it hard to do anything but place a
moratorium on such releases.

Meanwhile, people have registered their farms and homes as "GE Free" and are
campaigning to have entire towns and regions declared GE-Free. Film and TV
stars such as Sam Neill and Lucy ("Xena the Warrior Princess") Lawless have
taken strong public stands against GE. There has been a dramatic increase in
support for organic farming and thousands of citizens have joined SHA's call
for Aotearoa to be "totally organic" by 2020.


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