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NZ doing GE exporters' dirty work

3 June 2005

NZ doing GE exporters' dirty work at Cartagena talks

New Zealand is doing the dirty work for pro-GE countries outside the Cartagena Protocol on bio-safety by trying to unravel the deal from the inside, says Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

Greenpeace International, the Third World Network and the Friends of the Earth International last night condemned what they called "the lone attempts" of the New Zealand Government to "derail" Cartagena, an international agreement setting rules on trade in Genetically Modified Organisms, at talks in Montreal. This follows criticism of New Zealand earlier in the week from the Malaysian delegate, Gurdial Singh Nijar.

"On Tuesday, Marian Hobbs claimed in Parliament that Mr Nijar's statements were untrue and denied that New Zealand was trying to undermine the Cartagena Protocol. This information received last night from NGO observers at the Montreal conference confirms Mr Nijar's concerns," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"Ms Hobbs said New Zealand is 'inside the tent' on Cartagena, but this report suggests that we're trying to tear 'the tent' down."

Doreen Stabinsky, a GE campaigner with Greenpeace International, has said, "There is no way to describe New Zealand's behaviour at these talks as other than obstructionist. They don't want this agreement to happen and they are doing everything they can to stop it - even if that means isolating New Zealand from the entire rest of the world."

Ms Fitzsimons: "New Zealand is being a poor international citizen, acting on behalf of other pro-GE countries which have not ratified the Protocol and so don't get a vote. We should not be doing the dirty work of the US and others who are standing aside from this treaty.

The three NGOs report: "The New Zealand delegation is continuing to block consensus on key provisions regarding the information that must accompany GMOs in international trade. Instead of defending New Zealand national law that requires the labelling of genetically modified food, and presumably requires that importers and food manufacturers know whether the ingredients they import are or are not genetically modified, the NZ negotiators continue to argue that shipments of commodities such as corn or soy should merely state that they 'may contain' GMOs. By continuing with this stance, New Zealand is blocking consensus on the main item under negotiation in Montreal."

Ms Fitzsimons: "This move on labelling is a deliberate attempt to prevent consumers knowing what is in their food and countries from knowing what is crossing their borders.

"Other observers have reported to us that New Zealand is also blocking consensus on the formation of a group to consider risk assessment and the rules for the compliance committee. Apparently it is being asked in the corridors 'why did New Zealand become a party if their only intention was to lower the standards of the Protocol?'.

"This all surely confirms my earlier concerns that New Zealand's actions are those of a country that is trying to secure minimal liability for its GE exports, rather than protection for our environment and economy from GE imports," said Ms Fitzsimons.

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