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Benson-Pope: Use of genetic technology

21 March 2006 Media Statement

New Zealand does not support technology to disadvantage Third World farmers

The New Zealand Government does not support the use of genetic technology which would disadvantage subsistence farmers in developing countries, says Environment Minister David Benson-Pope.

The Minister was today restating New Zealand's position in the wake of what he described as inaccurate, deliberately misleading and grossly irresponsible statements by non-governmental organisations and the Green Party.

Mr Benson-Pope says so-called 'suicide seeds' are just one application of an emerging technology called Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs). GURTs is a form of genetic modification that theoretically provides the means to turn genes on or off and is an umbrella term that encompasses a much broader range of technologies than just 'terminator' or seed sterilization technology.

"There is no moratorium or international agreement to ban the use of GURTs in genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," said Mr Benson-Pope.

"The New Zealand government recognises the potential for both adverse and positive effects of such technology and chooses to consider the application of this technology on a case-by-case basis.

"For example, if there were some technology that ensured sterility in our possum population, would the New Zealand public not expect us to at least consider such a possibility?

"NGOs and developing countries have been highly critical of the potential application of GURTS technologies to make seed sterile after one season of use. The New Zealand Government agrees, and does not support the use of genetic technology in cases where subsistence farmers in developing countries would be significantly disadvantaged.

"New Zealand supports individual countries being allowed to determine for themselves the risks and benefits of any technology and make their own decisions as to whether or not they accept it," said Mr Benson-Pope.

ENDS

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