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Cautious Approach To GM Maintained

3 July 2002

The minister responsible for establishing the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification says the call by a new pressure group to extend the GE moratorium fails to recognise the safeguards in place and the cautious approach being taken by the government.

"I can understand the concerns of the newly established Sustainability Council of New Zealand," Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said. "But the Royal Commission conducted the most extensive investigation into genetic modification of any country, including the issues raised by the council.

"We acted on its recommendation to proceed with caution. We introduced a two year moratorium to allow research into social, economic and environmental issues surrounding GM, so we could set up the Bioethics Council and fully investigate other Royal Commission recommendations on issues like liability for accidents and changes to legislation.

"The expiry of the moratorium in October 2003 will not open the flood gates to commercial production of GE crops.

"It will simply allow applications for the release of genetically modified material to be considered case by case by the Environmental Risk Management Authority, the expert group established to protect the New Zealand environment from potential hazards.

"The authority is there to protect the health and safety of New Zealanders and
before approving any application ERMA must decide that the benefits outweigh the risks. If there were not enough information to make a decision, the application would have to be declined.

" Food would also require approval by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority and this would not be granted until the food has been tested and found safe."

Ends

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