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GE Trade Talks Threaten NZ Control - Greens

Press Release
New Zealand Green Party
23 January 2000

GE Trade Talks Threaten New Zealand Control - Greens

World talks on trade in genetically engineered organisms could leave New Zealand powerless to control its borders, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

Representatives of 134 countries, including New Zealand, will meet at the Montreal conference in an attempt to set rules for global trade in living GE organisms, including food, pharmaceuticals and seeds.

Ms Fitzsimons said it was crucial for New Zealand to speak out in favour of a Biosafety Protocol which guaranteed sovereign rights for the member countries.

"The essence of any agreement has to be that each country can make its own decision about whether or not to accept GE organisms," she said.

"There is an ongoing battle about whether free trade agreements will apply to GE trade," said Ms Fitzsimons. "A weak protocol which puts free trade before biosafety would be a complete disaster, because countries would have no choice other than to open their borders to genetically modified organisms."

Talks last year in Colombia failed when the delegates split into three different blocs.

"The US has taken a threatening stance towards any country which dares to stand against their commercial interests - as evidenced by the US ambassador's threat last year to impose tariffs on New Zealand products if we required labelling of GE imports," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"New Zealand can't be intimidated by these bullying tactics," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons favoured aligning with the group of developing countries who are fighting for a strong protocol, which would allow members to require labelling of GE products and reject imports if they chose.

"The Royal Commission of Inquiry will be a waste of time if New Zealand can be forced to accept imports of GE products, regardless of public opinion," she said.

"If a strong protocol is not agreed on, the country could be swamped by GE imports that we are forced to accept under world trade agreements. It's crucial for the future of our country that we can make our own decisions about accepting or refusing GE products."

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