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Is NZ a US "stalking-horse" on GE issue?

14 March 2006

Is NZ a US "stalking-horse" on GE issue?

New Zealand appears to be a "stalking-horse" for the United States in blocking consensus on the labelling of living GE organisms traded between countries, Greens Environment Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.

Last May in Montreal, New Zealand and Brazil prevented an international meeting - the Second Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol - from reaching any decision on labelling of traded living GE organisms. This week, the third meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol is being held in Brazil.

"All the other 117 countries attending the Montreal meeting supported a call for shipments of living genetically engineered organisms, being traded for use in food, feed or processing, to be labelled with the words 'does contain GMOs'," Mr Tanczos says.

"Has New Zealand simply become a stalking-horse for the United States - which is not a party to the convention? Does this explain why our foreign affairs officials at the meeting in Montreal refused to give reasons for our objections to labelling?"

New Zealand insisted on the wording "may contain GMOs" and refused to give any explanation for rejecting the "does contain GMOs" wording. The "may contain GMOs" wording is largely uninformative just as "may contain traces of nuts" is uninformative when it occurs on every item of processed food in supermarkets.

"The wording 'may contain GMOs' puts the onus on importing countries to test the shipments for GE organisms rather than on the exporting country where the responsibility should lie," Mr Tanczos says.

Many developing countries do not have the human or financial resources to test shipments and appropriate labelling would help them protect their biodiversity just as NZ is able to protect its biodiversity through our rules concerning biosecurity and import of GE organisms.

"At the opening address, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, emphasised the importance of reaching agreement on documentation of bulk shipments of living GE organisms," Mr Tanczos says. "Reports indicate that Brazil will no longer oppose full labelling. Will New Zealand be the only country to block consensus?"

ENDS

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