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Government sees NZ's future as a GE food exporter

31 May 2005

Government sees NZ's future as a GE food exporter

The Government doesn't see New Zealand as a '100% Pure' environment to be protected from GE, but as a GE exporter that should have as little liability as possible for contaminating other countries, says Jeanette Fitzsimons.

The Green Co-Leader made the charge after challenging Environment Minister Marion Hobbs in Parliament this afternoon over the Government's position at the Montreal working group on legal and technical issues of the Cartagena Protocol on bio-safety. The Malaysian delegation has criticised New Zealand for questioning the need for any rules on liability under the Protocol, despite having agreed when it ratified the Treaty to develop such rules.

"Marion Hobbs told the House that she was trying to protect New Zealand's 'economic interests as an agricultural exporter'. The only exporters who would be protected by an absence of liability are those exporting GE foods. All other agricultural exporters, who would suffer loss from contamination from overseas, would be disadvantaged," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Greens' GE Spokesperson.

"This shows that while there are currently no applications for release of GE crops or animals and the issue has gone quiet, the Government's longer-term vision is for New Zealand to become an exporter of GE foods.

"Ms Hobbs told the House today that her Government sees New Zealand's own liability regime as the model for the proposed international mechanism being negotiated under Cartagena.

"But in New Zealand there is no general liability for causing human health or economic harm through the release or indiscriminate application of Genetically Modified Organisms, unless there is a specific law that has been broken. If that model was applied internationally, New Zealand would have no redress against contamination from countries that have no laws in this area.

"Clearly, the Government is trying to protect future exporters of GE products from liability for any contamination they cause overseas, rather than protecting our environment and those exporters who depend upon its GE-Free status for their market advantage.

"It is an international embarrassment that clean, green New Zealand should be advocating such a lax approach to liability at a meeting to set bio-safety rules," said Ms Fitzsimons.

ENDS

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