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Win-win for environment and research

30 October 2001

Media Statement

Win-win for environment and research

Government decisions following the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification will ensure environmental protection while allowing necessary research to be undertaken, the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs said today.

"No genetically modified organisms will be released for at least the next two years except if they are specifically approved to protect health and no GM food will be grown in New Zealand for the forseeable future," Marian Hobbs said. "But we will maintain our edge in biotechnology and medical research by ensuring research can continue under contained conditions with mandatory controls and monitoring.

"We already have the strictest controls in the world for contained research and we are making them stronger.

"We will legislate to require the Environmental Risk Management Authority to impose the strictest possible safety standards on applications approved for contained research rather than allow ERMA discretion in the exercise of its powers."

Marian Hobbs said the government accepted the broad outline of the Royal Commission's strategy, preserving opportunities and proceeding with caution, but did not accept all the proposals for implementing that strategy.

A two-year constraint period will apply on commercial release but contained research under laboratory-type conditions will be permitted on a case-by-case basis. Legislation will be passed to implement the constraint period and ensure that ERMA applies strict health and environmental safeguards.

During the constraint period work will also be done to establish a Bioethics Council, as recommended by the Commission.

"We strongly endorsed this recommendation," Marian Hobbs said. "The Bioethics Council will play a vital role in cultural, ethical and spiritual issues, which are right up there alongside our concern for the health of our society."

Other work over the next two years will consider: · the economic impact of the release of any GM crop on the strategy of preserving opportunities · conditional release and co-existence of GM with different forms of agriculture · a biotechnology strategy · liability issues

The balance of the Commission's recommendations will be considered by ministers in the next week.

"I am pleased the government has taken the precautionary approach," Marian Hobbs said. "I consider the Royal Commission presented us with a balanced report and thorough consideration of the issues.

"We are preserving opportunities for New Zealand and over the next two years we will work to more fully understand genetic modification so that we can move forward safely."

Summary of government decisions and FAQs available from the Ministry for the Environment website:

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