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NZ welcomes consensus on genetic technology

Hon David Benson-Pope
Minister for the Environment
Member of Parliament for Dunedin South


27 March 2006 Media Statement
New Zealand welcomes international consensus on genetic technology

New Zealand fully supported the consensus agreement reached last Friday (24 March) in Brazil by the international Working Group on genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs) as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

GURTs encompass a wide range of technologies, not just seed sterilisation, that provide the ability to turn on or off gene expression. The Working Group agreed to respect farmers’ rights to preserve seeds under traditional cultivation and for further research to be undertaken on the impacts of GURTs, particularly on indigenous and local communities.

Minister for the Environment David Benson-Pope says this consensus outcome is what the New Zealand delegation went to the meeting to achieve. There was no disagreement on the final text adopted by the Working Group.

“This agreement is in line with New Zealand’s position, which will continue to be guided by New Zealand laws and international agreements we have signed up to,” said Mr Benson-Pope. “Our government strives in such negotiations to accommodate the concerns of others, and we are happy to have reached an outcome that satisfies all parties.

“The New Zealand government has no view on the merits or otherwise of genetically modified organisms developed using GURTs. Our position is to rigorously assess the risks and benefits of these technologies, if and when they arise, on a case-by-case basis under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. The New Zealand government is not aware of any plans to conduct 'field trials' of GURTs in New Zealand,” said David Benson-Pope.

“New Zealand supports further research on the impacts of GURTs, and also respects the right of farmers and indigenous and local communities to use, save and exchange their farm-saved seeds, subject to national legislation.

“We encourage the participation of indigenous and local communities in all future discussions on GURTs under the Convention on Biological Diversity and agree that capacity building initiatives are required to enable developing countries to make informed decisions on GURTs,” he said.

The decision of the Working Group will now be forwarded for adoption to the plenary session of the Conference of Parties (COP8) this week.

ENDS

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