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GE floodgates must be controlled

7 February 2006

GE floodgates must be controlled

The Green Party is calling on the Government to investigate options for retaining New Zealand control over decisions around genetic engineering, now that the WTO has effectively opened the floodgates.

The WTO issued a preliminary ruling yesterday which declared a 1998 - 2003 moratorium in Europe banning the import of GE foods was contrary to WTO rules. This effectively overrides the right of governments to protect their consumers and farmers from potential harm from GE foods and crops.

"While Food Safety Australia New Zealand has so far approved every application to import GE food products, this ruling raises the question of what would happen if they turned one down," Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says. "Would that be ruled illegal under the WTO?

"We are likely to face similar legal action if ERMA ever refuses an application to grow GE crops unless there is proven to be harmful results. So far there have been no such applications but eventually someone will try. Will we just roll over when our legal system is challenged?

"Denmark has been forced to protect its interests by instituting a liability tax on people who grow GE crops. This is one example New Zealand could follow if we need to," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"This is a way for nations to maintain the right to set their own food safety and environmental protection laws in the face of the ruling by the WTO, which says that countries can not ban GE foods unless there is scientific proof they are harmful."

In Denmark the tax will be used to compensate non-GE farmers if they suffer economic damage as a result of contamination of their crops by GE.

The New Zealand Government has said that farmers here would have to seek compensation individually through the courts if they suffer economic damage because their crops are contaminated by GE. - "This is a completely inappropriate approach which puts all the cost on the victim.

"The ruling might also be used to challenge the rights of local communities to determine what happens in their own environment as set out by the Resource Management Act. Will local democracy be overridden too?

"To blindly abide by the WTO's ruling is tantamount to having unprotected sex and keeping your fingers crossed that all will be ok," she says.

New Zealand must act now to protect our right to democratic decision-making and to prevent the damage to our agricultural sector's international reputation that contamination with GE will cause.

ENDS

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