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Cautious GM approach will continue


Cautious GM approach will continue

Calls to maintain the moratorium on the release of genetically modified organisms beyond next October overlook the safeguards in place, the cautious approach being taken by the government, and the need to preserve opportunities in the age of biotechnology, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

The Royal Commission conducted the most extensive investigation into genetic modification of any country and the government is now consulting the public on implementing commission recommendations.

"We acted on the commission's recommendation to proceed with caution," Marian Hobbs said. "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.

"We want to ensure that all necessary policy is in place before the restricted period on the release of genetically modified organisms is lifted in October 2003

"The expiry of the moratorium 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.

"The government has taken a safe, smart and sensible approach to GM. We recognise the need to preserve opportunities in the age of biotechnology."


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