Some 9000 protesters marched through the centre of Auckland today to show the Government the groundswell of opinion against genetic engineering.
Campaigners rallied around the country in a last ditch attempt to convince the Government it should keep GE restrictions in place.
Chanting and waving banners, the protesters accused Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Government of running a dictatorship and ignoring the fears and voices of huge swathes of the population.
Shouting "We want to be GE free" it took about two hours for the long line of protesters to march up Queen Street.
The banners said things like "What part of 'no one wants it' don't you understand" and "keep your hands of our genes" and "don't cell us out".
Geraldine Donovan, 62, said it was only the second time she had protested in her life. The other time was during a march against GE last year.
"I feel so strongly about this I had to join others who feel the same way. I just can't believe the government's going to do this when the majority of the country really want it to be GE free."
David Stott brought his 11-year-old son along for the march to protest against GE.
"My son has to live in the world that we create, he should have a say."
Near Aotea Square a brave pro-GE group carried banners saying "You see hurting, I see helping" and "It's my body I'll eat GE if I want to".
At one stage an anti-GE protester ran up to the men and ripped down one of the banners before being warned away by the police. Otherwise police reported no major problems in the march, which started at noon and blocked off Queen St for about two hours.
Organisers of the anti-GE marches today said the Government is being given a firm message about public opinion of the issue.
Protesters marched in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, New Plymouth and Timaru against the lifting of the moratorium on the commercial release of genetically engineered organisms.
The moratorium is due to expire at the end of this month.
The march in Auckland, the third in the city in three years, was organised by Greenpeace, Mothers against Genetic Engineering (Madge) and the Auckland GE-Free Coalition.
Greenpeace spokesman Steve Abel said the thousands who turned up were part of a "history-making event".
He said the aim was to send "a clear public message" to the Government to not lift the moratorium.
Meanwhile, Green MP Sue Kedgley said it wasn't too late for the Government to introduce legislation to extend the ban.
She said Labour was ignoring the wishes of the majority of voters in not doing so.
"People all over New Zealand are saying, why are they doing that.
"Why are they turning their backs on public opinion and their own members."
- Herald staff and NZPA