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Safety the first priority with GMOs

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Labour in Government will prohibit the commercial planting of genetically modified crops at least until a Royal Commission on Genetic Modification has completed its work, says the party's science spokesperson Mark Peck.

"Our policy, released today, has been the subject of wide consultation," Mr Peck says. "We have found widespread support for our approach.

"The Royal Commission will have wide terms of reference to inquire into the implications of genetic modification for food safety, the environment, ethics and culture, consumer rights and trade strategies. Our aim is to encourage a well-informed debate about the technology and develop a strategy for it in New Zealand.

"As well as adopting a cautious approach to genetic modification, a Labour Government will promote consumer choice by requiring labelling of all genetically modified food and ingredients.

"A 'maybe' label will not do. Foods are either genetically modified or they are not. Labelling allows the consumer to make and informed choice about what they eat. Labour will also provide regulatory agencies with the research capability they need to ensure manufacturers' information can be independently verified.

"Another safety check under Labour will be a requirement for independent scrutiny of key research used by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority when approving new foods. That could be done by the new Food Assurance Authority, whose establishment Labour supports. We will also give the authority new responsibilities in relation to genetically modified foods, including setting standards and commissioning research.

"Labour does not intend to interfere with genetic research, especially where there is a medical focus and the possibility of great public benefit. Our emphasis is strictly on safety, which requires strict rules of containment. A cautious approach will give everyone an opportunity to contribute to the debate on how we provide New Zealanders with safe food and a healthy environment."

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