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GM Paper 2: Practicalities Of Specific Issues

GM Paper 2: Practicalities Of Specific Issues

Office of the Minister of Agriculture

Chair
Cabinet Policy Committee

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON GENETIC MODIFICATION: REPORT ON MANAGING THE EFFECTS OF GM ORGANISMS AND COEXISTENCE IN PRIMARY PRODUCTION - PAPER 2: PRACTICALITIES OF SPECIFIC ISSUES

Purpose

1. This paper is the second reporting on managing the effects of GM organisms in primary production and in particular reports on specific issues with coexistence previously identified. It is to be read in conjunction with the accompanying overview paper that provides the context for these issues.

Executive Summary

2. It was found that:
 a generic industry code of practice covering best practice for ensuring effective separation distances between GM and unmodified crops based on the seed certification model, with enhancements, could be developed but there would be benefits in waiting to see what crops are likely to be introduced into New Zealand before developing such a code. In the short to medium term, the cautious case-by-case consideration of applications for release by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) will effectively address any issues relating to managing adverse effects, including any risks relating to the unintended presence of GM material.
 it is possible to develop strategies that mitigate the impacts on bee products arising from any release of flowering GM crops;
 strategies to preserve the long-term effectiveness of Bt insecticide are available and ERMA will be able to require compliance with best practice as a condition of any release of broad-acre Bt-producing crops;
 a code of practice for labelling GM propagative material at point of sale should be developed; and
 a nation-wide network to facilitate co-operation is unnecessary at this stage, and currently available mechanisms could be used to mediate any disputes.

Background

3. In seeking to encourage the coexistence of all forms of agriculture, the Royal Commission considered managing the risks and preserving the opportunities for those involved, and made a number of specific recommendations:

Rec. 7.7: that MAF develop an industry code of practice to ensure effective separation distances between genetically modified and unmodified crops (including those grown for seed production), such a code:
 to be established on a crop-by-crop basis
 to take into account
- existing separation distances for seed certification on New Zealand
- developments in international certification standards for organic farming
- emerging strategies for coexistence between genetically modified and unmodified crops in other countries
 to identify how the costs of establishment and maintenance of buffer zones are to be borne.

Rec. 7.3: that MAF develop a strategy to allow the continued production of GM-free honey and other bee products, and to avoid cross-pollination by bees between GM and GM-free crops, that takes into account both geographical factors (in terms of crop separation strategies) and differences in flowering times.

Rec. 7.1: that prior to the release of any Bt-modified crops, the appropriate agencies develop a strategy for the use of Bt toxin in sprays and GM plants.

Rec. 7.2: that the appropriate agencies develop a labelling regime to identify GM seed, nursery stock and propagative material.

Rec.13.3: that MAF develop formalised local networks to encourage constructive dialogue and communication between farmers using different production methods, and to provide for mediation where necessary.

4. In November 2001 Cabinet agreed that work on coexistence be progressed as far as possible in the absence of any actual applications for release, and directed officials led by MAF to investigate the practicalities of the following issues (POL Min (01) 30/4):

 an industry code of practice to ensure effective separation distances between GM and unmodified crops (on a case-by-case basis);
 a strategy to mitigate the impacts on bee products arising from any release of flowering GM crops;
 strategies to help preserve the long-term effectiveness of Bt insecticide;
 options for a cost-effective labelling regime to identify GM propagative material (seeds, cuttings etc) at point of sale; and
 a nation-wide network to facilitate co-operation and requirements for a mediation service.

5. The proposed new category of release under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, called conditional release, will enable ERMA to set conditions on releases of new organisms, and ensure that these are enforced (CAB Min (03) 4/3).

Industry Code of Practice to Ensure Effective Separation Distances between GM and Unmodified Crops

6. A separation distance is the distance a producer must grow a crop from other sexually compatible crops in order to prevent or minimise cross-pollination. In practice, the separation distance determines the size of a “buffer zone” which surrounds the crop. The buffer zone can be open space or it may contain crops of the same or unrelated species that are harvested for other uses.

7. Different species may require very different separation distances to reach the same levels of seed purity. For example, with wheat, which doesn't readily cross-pollinate, different varieties can be grown next to each other and still achieve at least 98% purity, whereas ryegrass varieties require 100-meter separation from each other to achieve the same level of purity. Other crops, such as brassicas that readily cross-pollinate with each other, require still greater distances. Generally, the higher the level of purity required, the greater the separation distance between sexually compatible crops. Unmanaged cross-pollination between GM and non-GM plants would be unacceptable for either GM or non-GM growers involved in high purity seed production.

Information sources and consultation

8. MAF examined relevant literature , , and sought submissions on the practicality of a code of practice. MAF also discussed the issues with practitioners in New Zealand involved in crop production, processing and marketing who held differing views on their willingness to use GM crops in the future.

9. Many submitters (including organic industry bodies, environmental groups, and private individuals), and Māori organic participants at hui, had no confidence that any separation distances were practical because they could not guarantee absolute purity. Agribusiness submitters, practitioners and researchers who believed coexistence was possible generally felt that a mandatory code of practice for maintaining separation distances could be developed based on systems currently used in the seed production industry and incorporating a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based register of GM plantings. Almost universally, submitters agreed that a register of plantings must be maintained, but there was a range of views on the purpose of the register. These included: assisting with the monitoring of effects, complying with any conditions of release, minimising the likelihood of contamination, addressing liability and insurance issues, and assisting prospective buyers (including land purchasers) with purchasing decisions.

10. Māori expressed a strong desire to be fully involved in decision-making, as well as the establishment, monitoring and management of buffer zones. Specific concerns included costs for establishing buffer zones, liability for contamination, and protection of wāhi tapu by kaitiaki (guardians) within buffer zones. Hui participants questioned whether there were any implications in establishing buffer zones on individual, multiple-owned lands administered on owners’ behalf (under the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act/Māori Land Act). The involvement of affected Māori in buffer zones is vital, and further work is required to ensure that Māori participate fully in the ERMA process to have their concerns considered.

Analysis

11. "Codes of practice" generally provide a set of high-level principles required to be followed in order to achieve a desired outcome. They are not developed to encourage someone to grow GM or non-GM crops. They are developed to ensure that those who have made the decision to become involved in an activity know what is expected of them. The code outlines acceptable practices and may or may not have legal standing.

12. Currently, the New Zealand seed industry manages crop separation in conventional agriculture using the OECD-based New Zealand Seed Certification Scheme (Annex 1). The industry is also developing a world-leading GIS-based Seed Crop Isolation Distance management scheme (Annex 2). AgriQuality New Zealand, a state-owned enterprise, currently administers both of these systems.

13. An industry code of practice for growing GM crops could be applied at either the specific crop level or at the generic best practice level. Similar codes of practice have been developed in the United Kingdom and Australia. There are however several issues to weigh in considering the options. These include when and if a code should be developed, who should be involved, and how it would be used.

14. The Royal Commission recommended that MAF develop a code of practice covering all issues associated with separation distances at the crop level. Officials believe this would however be impractical because each specific application of a GM crop poses its own issues. The code would need to cover, for each possible crop, issues relating to the purpose of growing the crop (e.g. agronomic evaluation, seed production, or commercial use); if and when pollen is produced; the type of pollination system (self- versus cross-pollination); and post-harvest management of the product and the paddock.

15. By contrast, a generic code of practice could be developed that outlined the principles and best practice for managing both cross-pollination and mixing of GM and non-GM material throughout the production chain. The code could include general practices for managing separation distances and buffer zones, based on current best practice, and could incorporate procedures used in existing crop production systems described in Annexes 1 and 2.

16. Just how wide the scope of the plants covered by a generic code should be is an open question because we do not know the range of GM plants likely to be introduced into New Zealand in future. Any generic code would currently have no legal status but would simply be reference material that makes information available to those wishing to understand the principles of crop separation, help ensure a consistent approach is taken, and provide a general understanding of what is involved. ERMA would be aware of it, but would have no obligation to refer to it. Government may need to be involved in facilitating any generic code because the crop industry and stakeholders are diverse and would need to be brought together. Funding of, and access to, the planting database would also need to be carefully considered. The lack of a code in the short to medium term would probably not affect the plans of any would-be applicants for the release of any GM crop plant.

17. In the short to medium term, under the proposed new conditional release amendment to the HSNO Act, the case-by-case conditions placed by ERMA on an applicant or delegated user will amount to specific controls for the management of each organism. The controls could include:
 the need for the applicant to comply with any specific organism-based code developed;
 the need to register the crop on the planting database;
 the need to maintain the separation distances defined by ERMA to mitigate any adverse effects identified during the risk assessment;
 details of any monitoring required; and
 any specific post-harvest or storage requirements for the produce.

18. These management controls would have legal standing under the HSNO Act and could be enforced. The costs of complying with the conditions set by ERMA will fall on the applicant or delegated users. ERMA's processes already allow for wide public consultation on each case for release to ensure that all issues are considered before it makes a decision.

19. Officials conclude that while a generic code of practice could be developed in advance of GM crops being planted here, there would be benefits in waiting to see what crops are likely to be introduced here before developing such a code. This would enable New Zealand to draw on the work currently underway in other countries with experience of growing GM crops. In the short to medium term ERMA's cautious case-by-case consideration of any applications for release will effectively address any issues relating to managing adverse effects, including any risks relating to unintended presence of GM material, and set the scene for developing a generic code. Officials recommend that MAF report back on the need for, and issues surrounding developing a generic industry code of practice.

A Strategy to Mitigate the Impacts on Bee Products Arising from any Release of Flowering GM Crops

20. Honey production in New Zealand (9,144 tonnes in 2000/01) is worth about $24 million at the farm gate. Exports of bee products (honey, wax, and live bees) are worth $21 million annually. The greatest value of the bee sector is in pollination, which was estimated at $3.1 billion in 1992. There are about 4,000 registered beekeepers in New Zealand with about 1,000 being commercial. New Zealand beekeepers wish to continue to market bee products world-wide and not suffer possible financial losses associated with the presence of GM crops in New Zealand.

Information sources and consultation

21. Information about the impacts of GM flowering crops on bee products and markets, and the practicality of strategies to mitigate any impacts, was sought from experts at HortResearch, and overseas (e.g. Canadian Honey Council; and via HortResearch contacts in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, and Switzerland). Beekeepers (including Māori beekeepers), the organic sector and bee product exporters were consulted between July and December 2002 on these issues.

22. The beekeeping sector in New Zealand would prefer to have no GM flowering plants released in this country at all, whether wind or insect pollinated. Beekeepers consider that their profit margins would be reduced if GM plants were released in New Zealand, as the separation distances they require will be too great to be practical. They questioned whether compensation would be available if their profit margins were reduced, and who would pay it. They also see other possible components of a strategy (e.g. filtering honey, hive management, genetically modifying plants so that GM material was not present in pollen, or applying bee repellents to the GM crop) as impractical and/or insufficient to satisfy their markets.

23. Exporters of organic bee products and bee-product-based pharmaceutical and health products felt that there would be market impacts from the presence of GM plants, as some of their customers already require assurances of non-GM status. Under the current under-supplied honey market conditions, the impact of GM content is minor, but the bee product sector is concerned that buyers may become more discriminating as honey supplies return to normal.

Analysis

24. A literature review found that pollen is the most likely potential source of GM material in bee products. Several strategies for reducing GM pollen content in bee products were identified and evaluated in the review. A key factor influencing the amount of pollen in bee products is the foraging behaviour of bees. Most bees have an average foraging distance of 0.5 to 1.5 km and will be found within 6 km of their hive. Bee foraging flights of distances as great as 13.7 km have been measured, although this was an extreme situation with a single food source in a desert where there was no other forage available. Moving hives 13.7 km away from GM crops would be impractical for the beekeeping sector and would result in problems for crops requiring bee pollination within the 13.7 km zone. In the UK, beekeepers have been advised by the British Beekeepers Association to keep their hives 10 km from flowering GM crops. The Bio-Gro New Zealand Organic Standards for honey do not specifically mention GM crops. However, they do require that beehives are located at least 3 km away from land used for intensive conventional horticulture or cropping to minimise the inadvertent presence in bee products of substances prohibited by the Standards.

25. New Zealand honey typically contains 0.006 - 0.03% pollen, although concentrations as high as 1.5% have been recorded under experimental conditions overseas. It is unlikely that any pollen present will come exclusively from a single source. This means that in the vast majority of cases, even if GM crops on which bees forage are introduced into New Zealand, any GM pollen present in honey will typically be less than 0.03% of the honey sample. At these levels, New Zealand honey could be marketed without GM labelling in many countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and the EU, because GM food labelling regulations in these countries allow up to 1% of GM material where its presence is unintentional. Other countries either allow higher levels of unintended presence of GM material (e.g. Japan, South Korea) or have no specific labelling requirements (e.g. the USA and Canada). However, if flowering GM crops were introduced, honey marketed in New Zealand might not always be able to be marketed as "GM-free" unless beekeepers had taken measures to verify the claim.

26. There is one documented case of a temporary negative market response to purported GM content in honey, which occurred with Canadian honey exported to Germany in 1999. Canada, which has extensive areas of GM canola and a strong honey export sector, has continued to export honey to Germany and other EU countries since then, albeit in reduced quantities due to the increasing importance of the US market for Canadian honey. Canada supplies clover honey when specialist markets demand "GM-free" Canadian honey.

27. There are three possible ways of mitigating the impacts on bee products. One option is to limit the type of GM plants that ERMA can approve for release. This is favoured by the beekeeping sector which prefers to have no GM flowering plants grown out of containment. Another approach would be to ensure that no GM plants were released that would (or could be) important honey or pollen species for bees.

28. A second option would be for ERMA to apply the proposed new conditional release category under the HSNO Act and set conditions on the way released plants are managed to address identified risks. Conditions could be designed to minimise any adverse effects on bee products (e.g. providing for a geographic concentration of planted areas which would enable beekeepers to locate their hives away from GM crops, or requiring growers to prevent flowering where it was not essential for the intended use).

29. The third option is for beekeepers, who are likely to be best placed to evaluate the market risks from GM content in bee products, to manage their hives and bee products accordingly. For example, they could use a GIS-based register of approved GM crops (as described in the section on "Code of practice for separation distances") to keep track of the location and flowering times of GM crops. Alternatively, they could filter honey to remove some of the pollen as is done in Canada. However, these management changes will impose extra costs on the sector, and it could be seen as inequitable for beekeepers to carry these costs as a result of GM crops from which they gain no benefit.

30. Officials prefer an approach where all the costs, risks and benefits of a specific GM organism, including possible effects on the market for bee products, be considered and weighed on a case-by-case basis in the context of a specific application. On balance, therefore, officials recommend using both options two and three to achieve the government's objectives of proceeding with caution while preserving opportunities. ERMA is expected to assess the costs, risks and benefits of each application and will be able to impose conditions on releases where it is appropriate to mitigate impacts on the beekeeping sector (option two). ERMA will be able to provide information about the location of any GM crops of concern to beekeepers in order for additional management as appropriate. Officials note that MAF will be conducting further work on coexistence issues and will report back if issues arise which require any further government decisions.

Strategies to Preserve the Long-term Effectiveness of Bt-Based Insecticides

31. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring soil bacterium used as an insecticide. The government is currently the major user of Bt in New Zealand (used for eradicating the white-spotted-tussock-moth and in the painted-apple-moth eradication programme). Bt is widely used by commercial kiwifruit growers for controlling leafroller caterpillars. Organic apple growers use it up to six times a year, and Bt is also used by home gardeners and growers of organic crops other than apples. It is important therefore not to compromise its effectiveness by indiscriminate use in GM crops.

Information sources and consultation

32. Information on the practicality of a resistance management strategy was sought from published literature and experts at AgResearch, BioDiscovery, and ERMA. MAF's information paper on developing a strategy for New Zealand is posted on its website . Some respondents to MAF's consultation on coexistence commented on the use of Bt. In particular, organic producers are very concerned that allowing Bt crops in New Zealand will compromise the effectiveness of their major insecticide through the development of resistance in target insect populations.

Analysis

33. The amount of selection pressure on insects to develop resistance to a toxin is directly related to the regularity and persistence of their exposure to the toxin. Current Bt crops produce toxin all the time they are growing and this can result in persistent exposure of insects to the toxin. These crops do provide selection pressure favouring resistant insects, so it is reasonable to consider requiring the use of strategies to delay the development of resistance.

34. Bt crops have been grown in several countries including Australia, Canada, China, India and USA. If market opportunities arose, Bt crops that could be developed for commercial production in New Zealand, in the short to medium term, include Bt potatoes and Bt Pinus radiata. While 87% of farmers in the USA comply with resistance management strategies, they are supported by good infrastructure. Although Bt potatoes are no longer marketed in the USA, due to consumer preference, the strategies developed to grow them in a manner that would delay the onset of resistance in the target insects serve as relevant examples of what could be done in New Zealand.

35. In both Canada and the USA mandatory insect resistance management (IRM) plans for use with Bt potatoes have been developed by the relevant governmental agencies (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency ). The plans are very similar and rely principally on maintaining “refuges” consisting of non-Bt plants for which no Bt spraying is allowed. The refuge must be at least 20% of the size of the Bt potato acreage and within 800 meters of the Bt potato crop. The use of a refuge allows non-resistant insects to survive and breed with resistant insects, thereby diluting the incidence of resistance in the insect population. Growers are also required to monitor their land for resistant insects, and the US's plan required growers to develop a remedial action plan if resistance did appear. Both plans also specify that growers should be educated in insect resistance and management, and the Canadian plan specifies that this education program is the responsibility of the developer of the Bt potatoes.

36. In the context of developing conditional release policy, Cabinet decided that ERMA would have broad discretion to impose appropriate conditions on a new organism that it considers for release. As a minimum, officials expect that ERMA will require applicants hoping to grow broad-acre Bt crops to submit a proposed IRM plan specific to their crop of choice, and that any approval would require an IRM to be complied with.

37. While the concepts of most IRM plans are the same (dosage of Bt, use of refuges, resistance monitoring), the details of execution (e.g. size of refuges and location relative to the Bt crop) differ based on crop species and the insects targeted. The draft IRM plan would be based on existing literature and current data produced by the company or research group that created the crop, along with any independent research information available. The draft IRM plan would be expected to demonstrate an understanding of pest biology and ecology (as well as potential effects on non-target species), and also consider integrated pest management strategies or the use of alternative pesticides or plants containing other versions of Bt genes. The draft IRM plan should include three key elements:

 a strategy to ensure appropriate dosage levels of Bt in the crop;
 specifications for an appropriate refuge; and
 a resistance monitoring and remedial action plan.

The IRM plan should also include participation by growers and interested parties in a communication and education programme for use of the Bt crop.

38. Officials conclude that it would be practical for ERMA to require all applicants planning to release any broad-acre GM crops containing Bt genes to develop a strategy to effectively address the risk of build up of resistance to Bt in key insect species. ERMA would then need to ensure that any approved strategy was implemented. While guidelines for the development of strategies have been provided in the MAF information paper, each new proposal would be assessed on a case-by-case basis. ERMA, MfE and MAF will continue to monitor developments in managing potential Bt resistance internationally and will report back if issues arise which require any further government decisions.

Options for a Cost-effective Labelling Regime to Identify GM Propagative Material at Point of Sale

39. Industry (e.g. Vegfed, Fruitgrowers Federation, and Berryfed) considers that propagative material must be labelled for producers to exercise choice about whether or not to grow GM crops, and will help protect them from any potential liability arising from inadvertently supplying GM produce. Home gardeners are also likely to want to choose whether or not to purchase GM plants from retail nurseries.

Information sources and consultation

40. The views of the nursery, commercial fruit, vegetable and flower growing sectors in New Zealand were canvassed for options. Nurserymen produce what commercial growers (vegetable, fruit and cut flower sectors) and foresters order. A single label may cover a consignment of hundreds of plants. Nurserymen indicated that the cost of labelling individual plants or punnets for commercial supply would be excessive and unnecessary. The sector also considered that a voluntary labelling scheme would not be well adopted by the retail nursery sector, based on the limited success of a voluntary scheme to label poisonous plants. Florists in Australia were also contacted to seek information on the labelling of GM carnations.

Analysis

41. Using the proposed new conditional release category, ERMA can require GM organisms to be segregated and identified where these tools would be a suitable way of preventing or managing the adverse effects of any specific release. For example, ERMA could require that a GM crop be segregated and identified to maintain any controls on location. Because the HSNO Act deals specifically with risks to the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities, a separate voluntary or mandatory scheme would be needed to provide buyer choice.

42. There are currently no international regulations for specifically labelling GM propagative material. Internationally, the debate on labelling GM organisms has largely focused on GM foods, and there has been much less debate about labelling of GM seeds and nursery plants at point of sale. There are at least three likely reasons for this. Firstly, most GM organisms commercialised in agriculture overseas are intended for broad-acre cereal or oilseed commercial growers (e.g. GM soybeans, GM corn) rather than for home gardeners. Products derived from these GM crops are common as ingredients in many processed foods world-wide. Consumer concerns about these products have motivated countries and international standard setting bodies (e.g. the Codex Alimentarius Commission) to first address labelling of GM foods to enable consumers to make informed purchasing choices. Secondly, GM seed manufacturers are generally keen to differentiate and label GM seeds at point of sale in order to recoup the costs of developing their value added products. Thirdly, the remaining commercialised GM organisms that are not used as foods (e.g. GM carnations) appear to have resulted in less public concern than GM foods. GM carnations are not routinely labelled at florists in Australia, but the manufacturer's websites in both Australia and the USA makes clear that they are GM plants. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety does contain some provisions on identifying GM organisms during trans-boundary movement, but these have not yet been developed.

43. In the absence of any well-developed frameworks for labelling overseas, the relative merits of voluntary or mandatory approaches need to be carefully considered. A labelling regime, including a voluntary one, which sought to provide industry and final consumers with accurate information in order to allow informed choice, would need to comply with the rules in the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). The TBT obligations for a voluntary labelling regime would be less stringent than for a mandatory regime, but would nonetheless require careful consideration of the details of any proposed voluntary regime to ensure, among other things, that it did not have the effect of creating an unnecessary barrier to trade.

44. There are two approaches to providing a more assured outcome of voluntary labelling of GM propagative material. Growers or nurserymen could ask their supplier to provide a written declaration of the GM status of plant material, which could allow commercial growers and foresters to exercise choice, and pass liability back to the supplier should the grower inadvertently grow and supply GM material to buyers. This approach is ad hoc, and may not work well for the retail nursery sector. A second approach is to use existing seed industry models (e.g. the New Zealand Seed Certification Scheme - see Annex 1, the Seed Industry Association of Australia code of practice) to develop a nursery and seed-industry-wide code of practice for facilitating a voluntary identification system. This approach is likely to be low cost and give a more consistent outcome across the sector, but it may need the government to initiate its development. Its effectiveness would depend on the extent to which the industry adopted and complied with it. False or misleading claims of compliance with the code would be prohibited under the Fair Trading Act 1986. The code of practice could be formalised into a standard under Standards New Zealand, if there was sufficient industry commitment, which may increase adoption and compliance. Any such standard would need to comply with the TBT Agreement's Code of Good Practice for the Preparation, Adoption, and Application of Standards.

45. It is unlikely that GM plants will be available to the general public in retail nurseries for some years. Further, unlike food, there is currently no suitable legislation for a mandatory labelling scheme for choice. The Fair Trading Act allows Consumer Information Standards to be developed, which specify the information to be disclosed. Only three consumer information standards currently exist. These provide for the labelling of specific types of goods; for example, the Consumer Information Standard (Care Labelling) Regulations l992 describe how certain textile garments should be labelled so that the garments can be cleaned without damaging the textiles. The Fair Trading Act is generic legislation and not well suited to labelling GM propagative material. Before any separate mandatory system could be developed a suitable regulatory mechanism would be needed, and the costs and benefits, including international trade implications, would need to be evaluated.

46. On balance, officials believe the most practical approach in the short to medium term is for MAF to work with the nursery sector to develop an industry code of practice for labelling of GM propagative material at point of sale, and report back on whether the code should be voluntary or mandatory, taking into account any cost implications, trade considerations and New Zealand's international trade obligations.

A Nation-wide Network to Facilitate Co-operation and Requirements for a Mediation Service

47. This issue resulted from proposals suggesting that co-operation could be facilitated, before GM crops are planted, by encouraging constructive dialogue and communication between potentially affected parties, and reaching agreement on what form of dispute mediation should be available.

Information sources and consultation

48. MAF sought submissions on the need for and practicalities of establishing a network. There was however no strong demand for developing a nation-wide network in advance of GM crops being considered for approval. Submitters who expressed a desire for New Zealand to remain GM-free saw no need for a network of any sort or for mediation. Submitters who thought coexistence was possible in New Zealand thought that potentially affected parties will need to address some issues collectively. This group noted that some existing crop production systems use mediation services currently provided by AgriQuality NZ.

49. Among those Māori consulted, a nation-wide network was not favoured. Some hui participants were open to regional networks being established when disputes arose. These could be based at the marae and/or hapu level, respecting kaitiakitanga. Hui noted that any form of mediation needed to include processes inherent in tikanga Māori for dispute resolution; and that mediation procedures in place within the jurisdiction of the Māori Land Court be considered when developing any proposals. Other concerns were who would pay for the service, and how to establish a process for resolving disputes should voluntary mediation fail to resolve issues.

Analysis

50. There are two elements to consider - networking and mediation. The number and nature of releases, the extent of the conditions imposed by ERMA, the definition of whether the role was one of information or mediation, and the definition of contentious issues such as liability and buffer zones will affect the need for any networking or mediation services.

51. Networks have little jurisdiction over resolving disputes, but may be helpful for sharing information and understanding. Networks for information sharing currently exist in many areas of primary production (e.g. discussion groups, landcare and focus farm groups, industry associations, and industry/government liaison groups). Informal networks will likely develop as they do now, but establishing formal networks would need co-ordination and funding. Programmed events for sharing information may be useful but should be considered later.

52. In general, the more clearly New Zealand's regulatory regime addresses contentious issues, the less the need for such services. Indeed, the more such issues are left to networks and mediation, the more costs and delays are likely to be added to the process because of the strongly polarised views of many stakeholders. In any event, mediation can also be provided by the private sector (e.g. the Arbitrators and Mediators Institute) or by the authority administering the system, as it presently is in the seed industry. The ERMA process will address the most contentious issues relating to the separation distances and other conditions that are needed between GM and unmodified crops, on a case-by-case basis to protect the environment and prevent or manage any adverse effects.

53. Officials note that a range of existing mechanisms could fulfil the role of a nation-wide network to facilitate co-operation. There is no strong demand or rationale at this stage for establishing further mechanisms or a mediation service, but MAF should continue to monitor the situation and identify any issues arising if any applications for releasing GM organisms are approved in future.


Consultation

54. The following departments and agencies were consulted: Department of Conservation; Ministry of Consumer Affairs; Ministry of Economic Development; Ministry for the Environment; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Justice; Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development); Ministry of Research, Science and Technology; Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; The Treasury; and ERMA New Zealand. In addition, MAF presented aspects of its work at meetings and hui to participants interested in "conditional release" as part of public consultation on amendments to the HSNO Act co-ordinated by the MfE, and consulted other affected parties directly.

Financial Implications

55. There are no financial implications associated with this paper but when the policy indicated is fully scoped there could be some, if the Crown decides to cover some costs associated with managing coexistence.

Human Rights

56. There are no human rights implications associated with this paper.

Legislative Implications

57. The passing into law of the pending amendment to the HSNO Act, to include the “conditional release” category, is considered vital for the managing the coexistence of GM and non-GM agriculture, horticulture and forestry.

Regulatory Impact and Compliance Cost Statement

58. Several of the proposed actions identified in this paper would impact on compliance costs. However the exact nature of the costs will only be known once further policy work has been completed and it is clear what GM crops are to be grown here.

Publicity

59. There is likely to be public interest in the content of both papers on managing coexistence. It is recommended that the papers be released and posted on relevant websites, along with the decisions made by the government.

Recommendations

60. It is recommended that the Committee:

Industry Code of Practice to Ensure Effective Separation Distances between GM and Unmodified Crops

1. note that MfE, ERMA and MAF will continue to work with Māori to ensure that Māori are able to participate fully in the ERMA process to address Māori land issues relevant to coexistence;

2. note that while a generic code of practice, based on the current seed certification scheme with enhancements, could be developed in advance of applications to ERMA, there would be benefits in waiting to see what crops are likely to be introduced into New Zealand before developing such a code;

3. note that in the short to medium term ERMA's cautious case-by-case consideration of applications for release will effectively address any issues relating to managing adverse effects, including any risks relating to the unintended presence of GM material, and set the scene for developing a generic industry code of practice; and

4. direct officials led by MAF to report to POL by 31 October 2004 on the need for, and issues surrounding, developing a generic industry code of practice that aims to achieve effective coexistence in primary production.

A strategy for mitigating the impact of flowering GM plants on bee products

5. note that under the proposed new conditional release category ERMA could set conditions to mitigate the impact of flowering GM plants on bee products;

6. direct officials led by MAF to investigate the use of a GIS-based register for GM plants to enable apiarists to site their hives away from unwanted nectar or pollen food sources, and make this information available to the beekeeping community; and

7. note that MAF will be conducting further work on coexistence issues and will report back if issues arise which require any further government decisions.

Strategies to Preserve the Long-term Effectiveness of Bt-Based Insecticides

7. note that under the proposed new conditional release category ERMA may require an applicant seeking the release of a crop containing Bt genes to comply with an insect resistance strategy to protect the efficacy of Bt as a pesticide; and

8. note that ERMA, MfE and MAF will continue to monitor developments in managing potential Bt resistance internationally and will report back if issues arise which require any further government decisions.

Options for a Cost-effective Labelling Regime to Identify GM Propagative Material at Point of Sale

9. note that under the proposed new conditional release category ERMA may require compliance with segregation and labelling conditions on approvals for GM organisms to prevent or manage any identified adverse effects, but not for buyer choice; and

10. direct officials led by MAF to develop a code or practice, with industry input, for labelling of GM propagative material at point of sale, and report back to POL by 31 October 2004 about whether the code should be mandatory or voluntary, taking into account any cost implications, trade considerations and New Zealand's international trade obligations.

A Nation-wide Network to Facilitate Co-operation and Requirements for a Mediation Service

10. note that there is a range of existing mechanisms that could fulfil the role of a nation-wide network to facilitate co-operation and mediation in relation to coexistence; and

11. agree that no further action is needed at present on developing a nation-wide network or the provision of mediation, but that MAF should continue to monitor the situation

Publicity

12. agree this paper be made available as soon as practicable after decisions have been taken, and posted on relevant websites.


Hon Jim Sutton
Minister of Agriculture

Annex 1. The New Zealand Seed Certification Scheme

Form and function

The OECD has determined a set of certification guidelines for the international trade of small seeds. A similar set of standards required for some markets has been developed by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), with principal members being Canada and the USA. MAF Biosecurity Authority is the designated authority for the OECD scheme. The Seed Quality Management Authority sits on AOSCA.

MAF Biosecurity Authority sets the standards required to achieve OECD certification. MAF Biosecurity Authority also audits the Independent Verification Authority that is employed to implement the standards set by MAF on behalf of the seed industry to ensure that government-to-government assurance of seed purity is maintained.

There are two Independent Verification Authorities in New Zealand SGS Ltd (an international certifying company) and AgriQuality NZ. All data from within the scheme belongs to MAF and the Seed Quality Management Authority.

Process of certification

 Seed Crops are registered by the grower or merchant soon after sowing. The scheme is voluntary so there is no compulsion to join unless growers wish to claim they produce certified seed.
 The information provided must include the previous 5 years of crops grown in the paddock, the type and class of seed sown with documented evidence, and a map of the property identifying where the crop is grown.
 Crops are inspected up to three times by AgriQuality New Zealand over the growing season.
 Labels are sent by AgriQuality New Zealand to the grower before harvest. These note the farm and paddock identification, species and variety, and seed class.
 The farmer is responsible for keeping the labels with the produce from the paddock when the crop is delivered to the seed store.
 The seed stores manage systems to maintain the labelling right through the seed cleaning process to packaging of the final product for sale.
 The label at point of sale identifies the grower, paddock, species, cultivar and class of seed.

Coverage

 The Seed Certification Scheme covers mostly herbage seeds (most grasses and clovers, and some brassicas and cereals).
 Almost 30,000 ha are grown under the scheme each year. There are ca. 1,500 active growers registered on the database.

Annex 2. The Seed Crop Isolation Distance management scheme

Over the past decade, New Zealand seed firms and growers have been developing significant markets for high value hybrid vegetable and brassica seeds, predominantly to Asia. Their customers require high purity seeds (to as close to 100% as practicable), and involve large separation distances of up to 5 km between crops. These seeds are not covered within the Seed Certification system, but the industry has voluntarily sought AgriQuality New Zealand's assistance to run a system to ensure separation of these crops for the industry's benefit. At present the system is based on the physical mapping of crop plantings by each company involved. The maps are returned to AgriQuality New Zealand, who then compare them; where potential conflicts arise, the companies concerned are contacted and made aware of this so they can resolve the issue with the other company involved. A high degree of co-operation is required by industry for this work, and it is achieved due to mutual benefits for the groups concerned.

In 2001, the Foundation for Arable Research (a growers levy-funded research and technology transfer group) was granted $111,900 over three years from the Sustainable Farming Fund to develop a GIS-based component to be added to this system described above. AgriQuality New Zealand is developing the system to be run with its spatial farm and land use mapping database called AgriBase, and is at the stage of trialing the Seed Crop Isolation Distance management system with seed companies. Companies and farmers will have access via a password to the system and can register their paddocks and intended crop species. If there is an isolation (separation) distance conflict with another crop already registered, a message will be generated to alert both parties, and the onus is on them to resolve the conflict.

The system will cover approximately 30 different species of crops covering 3,000 ha. It has the potential to manage the whole seed certification process, and the whole crop growing system. This is a world first: no other country has such a system operating. There is no reason why this system could not assist in managing the separation of GM and non-GM crops, and indeed has been developed with the wider application in mind.

ENDS

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