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Robust Systems Protect NZ Environment

26 June 2002
Wednesday June 26

Experts and scientists need to acknowledge there are risks from some GM technologies but they should also explain New Zealand has a robust, transparent and independent system in place to manage those risks to protect health and the environment, Environment Minister, Marian Hobbs said today.

Addressing the Environmental Risk Management Authority national meeting in Auckland Marian Hobbs said no one would deny that New Zealand institutions had made mistakes with the introduction of new organisms into the environment in the past.

"Think of how different our forests and their birdlife would be if possums, stoats and weasels had never been introduced," she said.

"New Zealand governments have learnt from the mistakes of the past by introducing the new organisms legislation. Our unique environment and experiences means that we are way ahead of the rest of the world in this area. "

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) requires robust assessment of the risks and benefits of a new organism, genetically modified or not, before it is introduced into this country.

The ERMA and HSNO came out well under audit. The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification concluded that “the basic regulatory framework was appropriate”, and that “the key institutions…carry out their functions conscientiously and soundly.”

The Commission also recommended several what it called ‘enhancements’ and the government was proceeding with these at the moment.

"Like the Royal Commission, I am satisfied that the ERMA Board has the skills, systems, resources and independence to do a thorough job of assessing applications put before them," Marian Hobbs said. "I too have confidence in the ability of the HSNO legislation to manage the risks that a particular genetically modified organism may present to public health and the New Zealand environment."


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