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Co-Existence Papers Released

Media Statement

Co-Existence Papers Released

17 April 2003

Co-existence between genetically modified crops and conventional agriculture crops is possible, Cabinet papers made public today say.

Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said the Royal Commission had found potential benefits for New Zealand in genetic modification technology, and that it had recommended proceeding with caution.

"The Government is doing this. We are working through a programme to ensure that we end up with a robust regulatory system by the time the moratorium on genetic modification release expires."

Mr Sutton said New Zealand had a comprehensive and integrated regulatory framework for managing risks to the environment and people from GM organisms and foods, and for addressing marketing claims.

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act is to be amended to include a new conditional release category so the Environmental Risk Management Authority can impose controls on how new organisms, including GM organisms, released into the environment are managed.

The papers released today show that the fundamental principle underlying regulation in New Zealand is that only GM organisms and GM foods that are considered safe will be allowed to be grown commercially or sold here. Only after safety has been addressed is choice considered.

The first Cabinet paper on coexistence published today says that co-existence between GM and non-GM crops is possible, by considering each use of a GM organism on a case-by-case basis, and that there would be different approaches for different GM organisms, such as vaccines, animals, and plants.

"Overseas experience illustrates the need for three essential elements for achieving effective co-existence of GM with non-GM production systems: · a robust regulatory approach that protects the environment and safety of people and communities by preventing or managing adverse effects, and makes clear where responsibilities for managing and enforcing any conditions lie; · a case-by-case approach that responds to the specific characteristics and likely of each GM organism; and · a "whole of production chain" approach to address any identified concerns from seed production and follow-up paddock management to post-harvest handling, management, and distribution."

Mr Sutton said this would be the approach used by the Government and its agencies, where all the risks, costs, and benefits of using each GM organism would be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.

The second co-existence paper published today discusses several practical issues, including codes of practice for growing GM crops and managing risks for beekeepers and users of Bt insectcide.

Mr Sutton said the Cabinet papers were part of ongoing work by the Government, and it was clear that more work would continue to be done in this area.

"Government agencies will continue to consult widely throughout this process."

ENDS

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