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Primary products at risk as back door opens to GE

1 April 2008

NZ's primary products at risk as back door opens to GE

The Green Party says that the Biosecurity and Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Legislation Amendment Bill before Parliament today will become a backdoor to allowing unapproved genetically engineered organisms into New Zealand.

"While the Bill currently excludes GE organisms, it is clear from an earlier draft of a discussion document entitled 'Fixing problems in new organisms, including genetically modified organisms, unintentionally introduced into New Zealand', that Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries's intention is to remove this exclusion after the election," Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"The Bill will shift the responsibility for approving and controlling new organisms that arrive 'incidentally' - such as micro-organisms and insects infecting other goods - from the Environmental Risk Management Authority to MAF Biosecurity NZ.

"This move can only weaken our protection from new organism threats which would threaten our primary production industries and our precious indigenous flora and fauna as it is common knowledge that the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act gives much greater protection than the Biosecurity Act.

"The Green Party is extremely disappointed that both the Government and the National Party are willing to increase the risk to our primary production and native species.

"While we entirely oppose the Bill as it stands, we have worked with the Maori Party in developing amendments to tighten it.

"One amendment will introduce a clause to make the bill expire in 18 months, allowing time for proper process. The process of scrutiny and consultation on this Bill has been appalling - no public consultation document and a brazenly-brief four-week select committee process.

"For example, we are very concerned at the failure to heed the views of the Department of Conservation, which has responsibility for managing biosecurity threats to indigenous flora and fauna. It is quite clear from internal documents that the DOC is seriously concerned that the Biosecurity Act does not have a high enough protection, and that this Bill increases the risk.

"Other amendments will seek to clarify the right of the Beekeepers' Association to have their argument heard following the Court of Appeal decision in their favour."


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