PRESS RELEASE from PHYSICIANS AND SCIENTISTS FOR RESPONSIBLE GENETICS
Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics (PSRG) are gratified that attention has been drawn to the need for liability in respect of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs). This was not specified by the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification and, in the event that the NZ government allow the release of GEOs, it is essential that it be fully addressed..
Dr Bertram and his colleagues at Chen, Palmer & Associates and Simon Terry & Associates, see the need for strict liability protection. Sir Geoffrey Palmer is correct in his assertion that “it would be better if this liability regime was decided on at the beginning.”
The effects of DDT and other chemicals, asbestos, etc., have been largely met by society. The idea that any damage from GEOs should be paid by government from the public purse is unacceptable. Liability must lie with the company releasing the GEOs.
On the basis of experience overseas, if GEOs are released into the NZ environment, companies face potentially very large legal liabilities arising from GE cross-contamination, health and safety issues. The possible damage to our bee-keeping industry and organics industry alone could be incapacitating.
The refusal by Sri Lanka to take our cheese should be a salutary reminder to government, Federated Farmers and others that our export markets may also refuse products containing GEOs or, for example, from animals which have been fed on plants of unknown properties.
Because of the inherent uncertainties associated with genetic engineering technology, insurers have little means to correctly evaluate the risks they are taking - something the reinsurance company, Swiss Re, stated in a report published 1998. In February 2000, Friends of the Earth revealed that the UK's leading farm insurance company, NFU Mutual, would no longer offer farmers insurance against GE pollution.
Under such threats New Zealand farmers and growers should be protected. To allow the release of GEOs and assume that it is up to the consumer or the recipient to prove they are harmful is to put the card before the horse.
440a Otumoetai Road,
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND
Telephone and fax 64 7 576 5721
18 October 2001