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Leaked memo shows no insurance for GE

Leaked memo shows no insurance for GE

A memo leaked to the Green Party shows that New Zealand's biggest insurance company has moved to deny insurance cover for any harm resulting from Genetic Engineering.

"We expect other insurance companies to follow suit, as it is normal practice overseas that the risks from GE can't be insured," Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today. "This shows how big a risk insurers believe the GE industry to be."

The move by Vero, formerly Royal & SunAlliance, means farmers won't get private cover for losses caused by either their own GE crops, animals or micro-organisms, or those of their neighbours. The move by Vero is effective from October 1, and applies to both personal injury and property damage.

Ms Fitzsimons said the ramifications were huge.

"If a farmer uses a genetically engineered vaccine which has a living bacteria or virus, and that bacteria or virus is excreted by the animal and contaminates the soil and the farmer's land become unsaleable, there will be no insurance cover for the loss of value of that farm.

"If your neighbour grows herbicide-resistant GE crops and creates herbicide-resistant weeds, as has happened overseas, and these then infect your farm, you can't insure against that and nor can your neighbour.

"If genetically engineered pollen from a neighbour's crop contains an allergen and you get sick, there will be no insurance to cover that.

"If a genetically engineered crop fails to perform, such as the GE cotton crops overseas which performed much worse in drought conditions than normal cotton, there will be no insurance cover for that.

"If you're growing a GE crop and the pollen contaminates your neighbour and they lose their organic certification, you will not be able to insure against the damages from your neighbour," Ms Fitzsimons said.

The Government's strict liability regime, in the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill going through now, means people using GE are only liable for damages if they break the law. "None of the matters outlined above involve any breach of the law, so there would be no liability for the people causing the harm and no compensation for the people affected.

"The combined result of the liability regime and the lack of insurance is that the full risk for any genetically engineered organism that goes wrong will be borne by the victim," Ms Fitzsimons said.

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