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Opening the door to a GE future

Opening the door to a GE future

Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today said the proposals put forward in a Government discussion paper on the HSNO Act would make it easier to release genetically engineered organisms and could weaken public participation in the approval process.

Ms Fitzsimons said in particular the proposed new category of 'conditional release' of genetically engineered organisms was the thin end of a wedge that would hold open the door to a GE future.

"None of the reasons given in this paper for 'conditional release' stand up to scrutiny," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"The main reason for such a category is to allow those companies promoting new genetically engineered crops and animals to trial them in the open environment, instead of in containment, while creating the false impression that the trials are strictly controlled."

Ms Fitzsimons said 'conditional release' was originally proposed by the Royal Commission into Genetic Modification in order to allow the use of 'buffer zones' between GE and non-GE crops as part of their strategy of 'co-existence'.

"Since the Royal Commission report there has been a stack of international evidence showing that buffer zones do not work and that once genetically engineered crops are planted into the environment, contamination and cross pollination are inevitable.

"The public need to know that the so-called 'conditional release' of genetically engineered crops is in fact a massive step towards New Zealand becoming a GE nation. Most New Zealanders, farmers included, do not want GE crops and animals grown here and this paper shows Government is simply not listening," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons said she was also worried by the discussion in the paper on how to protect commercial confidentiality and intellectual property.

"The information that companies would want to protect from competitors is likely to be the same information - such as the nature of transgenic material - that is required under the HSNO Act to accurately assess risk. If submitters do not have that information there can be no scientific debate about risk at the hearing.

"This paper also makes it clear that Government has no intention of legislating to require the owners of GE organisms to be held liable for any damage they cause, such as contamination and ruin of organic crops. This paper instead proposes that the risks be shared by the victims and possibly the taxpayer," she said.

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