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Law Commission work on GM liability

Tuesday, 09 July 2002

The Law Commission has been asked to produce a final report on liability issues concerning genetic modification by early September, if possible, says Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson.

The Law Commission was asked in February 2002 to report to the government on liability regimes for losses resulting from the development, supply or use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The request followed the report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which concluded that “for the time being” there was no need to change current law, but suggested the government “may wish to refer the liability issues to the Law Commission for more intensive study”.

“The government has received a paper in response from the Law Commission but has returned it with a request for further work to satisfy the original terms of reference,” Mr Hodgson said. “The Commission has identified a number of core policy decisions that need to be made and possible components of potential liability regimes. However it is yet to address directly the various options that exist for specific liability regimes, as requested.”

The Law Commission has been asked to report in more detail on the following questions:
- How have other jurisdictions dealt with potential loss or damage resulting from the release of GMOs compared to other potential forms of environmental loss or damage? Do their liability regimes cover both?
- How does current New Zealand law and policy address the management of actual or potential risks to the environment in other contexts?
- What liability would current law provide for any damage that might be caused by a genetically modified organism once approved and released?
- What would the existing law not cover?
- What alternative mechanisms or combination of mechanisms could be developed to cover those gaps (e.g. civil liability rules, public regulatory approval regimes, or public enforcement powers)?

“When this work is completed I expect it will usefully inform debate on liability for GMOs and help the government make the necessary policy decisions. The government intends to release the final report as soon as practicable after it is received.”


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