New Zealand GE Protest Ends in Arrests

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, December 27, 2000 (ENS) - Five Greenpeace activists who boarded a ship carrying genetically engineered soya meal were arrested by New Zealand police today.

The group was charged with unlawfully being on a ship and appeared in Auckland District Court, where the activists were remanded on bail until January 8.

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One protester chained herself to the ship's anchor. (Photos courtesy Greenpeace)
The cargo ship Federal Pescadores had been carrying animal feed from the United States to New Zealand. The five boarded the ship in the Hauraki Gulf, prior to docking at Port of Auckland, and called on Jossco, New Zealand's largest importer of soya meal, to reject GE soya meal.

One activist attached herself to an anchor chain and four others scaled the ship's cranes to unveil a protest banner.

The action followed independent tests on a previous shipment of Jossco’s soy, which, according to Greenpeace, confirmed the presence of Monsanto’s Round-up Ready GE soy. The meal is mainly used as chicken feed.

"Greenpeace is very concerned that this shipment is also GE contaminated, and we do not want it entering New Zealand and our food chain," said Greenpeace campaigner Sarah Duthie.

"Food companies in New Zealand are aware of the consumer rejection of GE contaminated products," said Duthie.

"The animal feed market globally accounts for the use of 80 percent of the genetically engineered crops that are grown. To ensure that the environment is not exposed to the risks of growing GE plants, we are calling on the largest users of GE crops - the animal feed industry - to commit to GE free supplies."

Genetically engineered organisms have had their genetic material modified in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination. By genetically engineering an organism, individual genes can be selected and transferred from one organism to another, sometimes between non-related species.

Food companies might transfer useful genes into plants that lack them to make them more resistant to disease or pesticide. But some scientists and non-governmental offices such as Greenpeace are concerned about possible side effects of genetic engineering.

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A lone policeman attempts to remove the activists from the ship's crane.
Their concerns that GM crops and GM food could create allergies, harm biodiversity and eliminate indigenous species have raised awareness among consumers who are increasingly demanding tougher labeling laws.

"Consumers in New Zealand are concerned about GE contamination in the food chain," said Duthie. "The feed industry needs to listen to New Zealanders and reject GE soy.

"The rejection of genetically engineered organisms from the food chain will send a clear message to the growers of GE crops that they are not wanted. We are inviting the users of GE soy to protect the environment."

Last week Greenpeace protested the use of GE soya meal in animal feed by another New Zealand company, Tegel Foods Limited. Today, the group contacted Jossco, calling on the company to reject GE soya meal and make a commitment to source only GE free ingredients.

Speaking to the New Zealand Press Association, Jossco manager Terry O'Connor said it was no secret that United States soya bean products contained genetically modified material. He added that for the last 12 months, the company had been looking for alternative supplies of GE-free soya bean meal.

"We have been as a company very proactive in exploring not only soya bean meal but other types of protein that are GE free," said O'Connor. "I feel we have been pretty responsible in this area."