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Cartagena Protocol comes into force on Wednesday

23 May 2005 Media Statement

Cartagena Protocol comes into force on Wednesday

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety will enter into force for New Zealand on Wednesday 25 May, Environment and Associate Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Marian Hobbs announced today.

The Cartagena Protocol regulates international trade in certain types of organisms known as living modified organisms. Living modified organisms include all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) covered by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, as well as organisms produced by fusing cells from different taxonomic families.

"New Zealand has joined more than 100 countries in signing up to the protocol. We support the protocol's objective of ensuring appropriate environmental safeguards around trade in living modified organisms and can offer useful lessons from our experience of safe management of GMOs," Marian Hobbs said.

The protocol obliges countries to share information about what's being imported and exported. These obligations are consistent with the government's policy approach to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – to proceed with caution, while preserving opportunities.

"This formalises the government's decision made in September last year to ratify the protocol, following public consultation that attracted more than 1200 responses, mostly favouring ratification," Marian Hobbs said.

"Ratification allows us to attend the Second Meeting of Parties to the Protocol from 30 May - 3 June as a full member. This is important, because it allows us to influence the protocol from 'within the tent', taking account of our economic interests as an agricultural exporter."

New Zealand will be promoting the balanced and effective implementation of the Protocol, to ensure that both exporting and importing country perspectives are considered. Several other major agricultural exporting nations are considering ratifiying the protocol. New Zealand will encourage these countries to sign up, so the protocol has comprehensive coverage and relevance, Marian Hobbs said.

The protocol is largely business as usual for our importers. New Zealand already has stringent GMO import controls which exceed the standards set by the protocol.

"From 25 May, approvals will be now required before living modified organisms can be exported. However, because no GMO commodity crops are currently exported, and are unlikely to be for several years, these requirements mainly affect the research community," Marian Hobbs said.

"The new obligations on exporters aren't onerous, but there are certain rules about packaging and handling that people, mainly from the research community, sending living modified organisms out of the country will need to follow from 25 May."

Information on the new export requirements may be viewed at www.mfe.govt.nz but exporters are encouraged to contact the Ministry for the Environment or the Environmental Risk Management Authority for further detail on exports covered by the protocol and the information that needs to be provided.

ENDS

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