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Greens tighten GE safeguards

31 July 2008

Greens tighten GE safeguards

As part of its co-operation agreement with the Government, the Green Party has negotiated new safeguards to protect all those who want no part of any genetically-engineered farming industry.

"We remain strongly opposed to GE organisms in our fields and our food and haven't given an inch on that staunch stand," Ms Fitzsimons says. "However if at some future date National and Labour use their powers to try to force New Zealand to accept general release of GE crops, at least there'll be more rights and information for neighbours and for those who question GE."

Ms Fitzsimons said a public consultation process starting now was only a few weeks long so some changes could be made before the election. She urged people - and especially growers who cared about being GE-free - to take part. Details are about to go on the Environmental Risk Management Authority's website

"These draft safeguards have been hard-won after a long and difficult debate with various Ministers, and I want to pay tribute to Environment Minister Trevor Mallard for ensuring we made progress," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"Of course all this is a far cry from what the Green Party would like to see eventually; a totally GE-free food industry in New Zealand and promotion overseas of our clean and green GE status as a major marketing advantage. With only six MPs we haven't yet been able to achieve that.

"But pressure from the Greens and from consumers has so far prevented a GE farming industry from establishing here and polluting other crops. Let's hope that continues."

The Government Co-operation Agreement with the Green Party states, "During this term of Parliament work will be undertaken to increase the certainty around the ability of non-GM producers to maintain GM free production and be able to identify their products as such to meet market access requirements".

Note: Please see bullet point description of new regime below:


The principal new GE safeguards, achieved in Green-Government negotiations:

1. An open public register of the location and identity of any GE crops allowed to be grown, excluding contained field trials.

2. A second open public register - on the compliance record of all field tests, and any releases, with details of reasons for any non-compliance and official actions taken.

3. A system of segregation to ensure GE material will not contaminate any non-GE crop. This is an important provision not only for management in the field but, as has been seen in New Zealand with cases of contaminated corn crops, for keeping seed stocks GE-free.

4. A "traceability" system from the point of production to the shop shelf based on the European Union model. The way the EU model could be applied to NZ's regulatory system will not be known until the end of August, but the EU includes a labelling scheme.

5. An agreement that the question of liability and payment for harm resulting from the use of GE organisms will be considered again by Cabinet, after the next stage of relevant international negotiations on GE are completed at Cartagena.

The full Cabinet decision will appear on the Cabinet website shortly.


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