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Govt,. Response To Bio Risks Needs Re-Balancing

Federated Farmers is asking the Government to rebalance its response to biological and environmental risks.

President Alistair Polson, speaking at the Environmental Risk Management Authority's conference in Christchurch today, said that the difference in regulatory approach between genetic engineering or the importing of new organisms, and border biosecurity was glaring and almost ridiculous.

"The Government, through the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), has a very rigorous and cautious approach to genetic modification and importing new organisms. However, its expensive process may be stifling much-needed innovation," said Mr Polson.

"ERMA's charges may be so high as to encourage small commercial operators or hobbyists to smuggle new breeds of plants or animals into New Zealand. These charges are high because the Government's public good funding is not sufficient."

"In contrast, the Government's approach to border biosecurity is far less co-ordinated. New Zealand has a 'bells and whistles' ERMA, and a torn fishing net for protecting the border."

"For example, there is the continuing foolishness of inspecting every imported used car, but only 23% of containers. New Zealand also fails to either educate incoming travellers about the risks of bring plants or food into the country, or to impose a meaningful deterrent, such as instant fines, on those passengers that break our biosecurity laws."

"Federated Farmers is asking the Government to explain why it continues to fail to balance its security efforts with the risks."

The federation is also concerned at the impact the high costs of ERMA's regulatory process may be having on innovation and the adoption of a knowledge economy.

"The high cost of the ERMA process is discouraging badly-needed innovation in New Zealand industries. For example, the Hieracium Control Trust faces high costs to introduce biological controls for hieracium, an invasive weed," commented Mr Polson.

ENDS

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