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NZ supports case-by-case assessment

10 February 2005 Media Statement

NZ supports case-by-case assessment

New Zealand has no firm view on the merits of new organisms involving seed sterilisation technology but supports their case-by-case assessment rather than a blanket ban, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

The topic is being discussed at an international conference in Bangkok on the Convention on Biological Diversity, where a group of technical experts have reported on the use of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies or seed sterilisation technologies. Marian Hobbs rejected a call from GE Free NZ and the Green Party for New Zealand to support a ban on field tests for "terminator genes" raised in the report.

"Our understanding is that the scientific experts involved in drafting the report could not agree," Marian Hobbs said. "In the absence of consensus we find it to difficult to believe a ban is the right path to follow.

"We consider applications for use of technologies such as this should be assessed on their merits because there is the potential for positive environmental effects.

"As noted by the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification in their 2001 report: 'the use of sterility technology in commercial forestry trees should be investigated, as it has the potential to reduce pollen production with its associated allergenicity problems and prevent wild pine escape. However, a full assessment, based on field trials, of the effects of genetically modified sterility on the ecology of the forest would be required.'

"There are no plants produced using seed sterilisation technologies in commercial use anywhere and speculation about their possible impact is premature.

"New Zealand's Hazardous Substances and New Organisms regime provides for a rigorous assessment of the effects of all new organisms, including genetically modifed organisms.

"We regard this framework as an example for other countries, with concerns of GURTS, to establish an evidence-based system to assess impacts and manage risks of all new organisms – whether those risks be social, environmental or economic."

ENDS

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