Fri, 4 Jun 2004
Govt sided with reckless GE states against environmental protocol
Auckland, Friday 4 June 2004: Contrary to what Marion Hobbs says; that the government has been too busy (1) to ratify the Cartegena protocol on Biosafety, the New Zealand Government has in fact been in active collusion with the biggest and most reckless of the GE producer nations to undermine the environment protecting agreement.
New Zealand is part of the ‘Miami Group’ of anti-protocol countries (2). This group includes the biggest and least cautious GE growers: the USA, Canada and Argentina. “These guys have got GE coming out their ears, of course they don’t want an international agreement that puts precautionary controls on the trade in GMOs,” said Greenpeace GE Campaigner Steve Abel.
“But it is shameful that in one breath our government can talk about having the best protections in the world and yet side with those who are undermining a multilateral agreement that ensures that right of self protection to poorer countries.”
A consultation period begins today on whether NZ should ratify the Protocol. “Absolutely New Zealand should ratify,” says Abel, “Cartegena is entirely in line with the Government’s mantra of proceed with caution, yet the Miami link makes this look like another patsy consultation,” said Abel. “Like most processes around GE there will be an excess of public submissions which the Government will ignore because they’ve already made up their mind not to ratify.”
However Greenpeace is encouraging the public to take the time to make a submission in support of the Biosafety Protocol. “The Biosafety Protocol is for all those who care about the protection of our environment, food security and the preservation of our genetic resources, something New Zealand should be championing,” said Abel.
The Biosafety Protocol entered into force on 11 September 2003, three months after the 50th country ratified it. 99 countries have now ratified (3). The Protocol allows countries to establish or maintain means to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the use and release of living modified organisms. The Protocol applies to all GMOs that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health. Of particular note, the Biosafety Protocol recognizes in its preamble the crucial importance to humankind of centres of origin and centres of genetic diversity (4).
“Considering that industry, backed by powerful governments with vested GE interests, had not wanted any meaningful agreement at all, the Biosafety Protocol is a historic achievement. For the first time under international law, there is an explicit requirement that countries take precautionary measures to prevent GMOs from causing harm to biodiversity and human health,” concluded Abel.
(1) Morning Report, National Radio, 3 June 2004: MARIAN HOBBS (ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): I ACTUALLY THINK IT’S A QUESTION OF WHERE A NUMBER OF PROTOCOLS THAT WE ARE ENGAGING IN AND I JUST THINK IT’S SORT OF PRIORITISED WORKLOADS AS WE GO THROUGH, WE’VE ONLY GOT SO MANY DIPLOMATS AND SO MANY PEOPLE WORKING OUT OF MFAT. REPORTER: AND MS HOBBS REJECTS THE ALLEGATION THAT OTHER ISSUES ARE TIED UP WITH WHETHER OR NOT TO RATIFY. HOBBS: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE UNITED STATES, IT REALLY HAS BEEN TO DO WITH OUR PARTICULAR WORKLOADS.
(2) The original Miami Group included the US, Argentina, Canada, Australia, Chile, and Uruguay. New Zealand and Brazil have now joined it to form the Miami+ group. New Zealand was present at a small meeting on June 12-13, 2003 in Buenos Aires organised by Argentina, Canada and the US (responsible for 90% of the worlds GE crops). This cosy gathering was for the purpose of drafting a model agreement that was the basis for the trilateral agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico. Also present were Brazil, Chile and Australia. This group is know as the ‘Miami group’ of countries that are actively engaged in sabotaging the Protocol.
(3) For the list of countries that have ratified the Biosafety Protocol: http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety/ratification.asp
(4) The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Biosafety and the Environment – An Intrduction to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, June 2003.