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Import News: Biosafety Protocol

Import News from the Importers Institute

7 February 2000 - Biosafety Protocol

A group of the world's environment ministers signed a Biosafety Protocol in Montreal recently. Green MPs and Government Ministers welcomed the news. What does it mean?

Under the Biosafety Protocol, countries importing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will have the right to assess the potentially adverse effects of a GMO, before they allow it to be imported.

This will have no impact on New Zealand, since we already have an Environmental Risk Protection Authority set up for that purpose, complete with user-pays tribal spiritual consultants.

The major change, and that which excited the attention of our Greens and fellow travellers, is that importing countries will no longer have to base a decision to ban imports on science. Under the "precautionary principle," it suffices that someone claims a suspicion of danger.

The United States, Australia and Canada, as major food exporters, opposed these proposals. New Zealand, another major food exporter, did not.

It is unlikely that we will be able to grow vegetables genetically engineered to resist pests. This means that we will need to use bigger quantities of chemical pesticides, or attempt to grow crops organically. That means converting more land to farming, or producing less food.

It also means the demise of agricultural science research in New Zealand. It is hard to see why any world-class researchers would want to work in a country where eco-fundamentalists are in government or close to it.

The Biosafety Protocol will most probably become no more than a useful instrument for protectionists and Luddites. The Importers Institute urges the government not to sign it.

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