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Lawyers join the "Knit Your Own World" Brigade

18 October 2001 PR158/01

Lawyers join the "Knit Your Own World" Brigade

The report on GM and legal liability released today is just another attempt to re-litigate the Royal Commission's findings says Federated Farmers President Alistair Polson.

"Like the Greens, one of the report's authors submitted to the Royal Commission, did not like its findings and is now trying to re-litigate the process.

The Royal Commission considered numerous submissions on legal liability and concluded there was no need to change the current liability system.

"The Royal Commission recommendations emphasise preventing damage or injury in the first place rather than imposing a strict liability regime. New Zealand has the best environmental risk management system in the world. Case by case assessment is a better way of managing risk.

"If GM developers are forced to bear the full financial risk of their activities, New Zealand can expect to loose research capacity and investment will be diverted offshore, as our comparative and competitive advantage is eroded irrevocably, said Mr Polson.

"This is reinforced by the Royal Commission's statement that strict liability can be a barrier to innovation and progress and the weight of international precedent is against setting up such a regime.

"This report gives examples of potential damage claims that could arise from the release GMOs such as personal injury and effects on non-target species. These types of damage claims are generally not limited to GMOs. Should there be bonds on all food producers be they conventional, organic of GM?

"Over the past 15 years the EU spent $64 million on 81 research projects to examine the risks involved in genetically modified crops and products. Not a single study found 'any new risks to human health or the environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant breeding'. Indeed, the use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods.

"Lets not throw out the baby with the bath water. It is time for all New Zealanders to embrace the cautious use of GM technology keeping New Zealand's options open to build a strong economy and sustainable environment," concluded Mr Polson.


For more information: Alistair Polson, PH 04 473 7269 or 025 370 085 Catherine Petrey, PH 04 473 7269.

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