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Sutton Urged To Raise GE Compensation With US

Press release 19 July 05

New Zealand Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton must raise the issue of compensation for NZ farmers for GE contamination when US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns visits New Zealand next month.

Australian farmers have recently been hit by GM contamination of canola (see below) that is being attributed to mistakes in regulatory processes overseas but has left them exposed to lost sales to international markets as a result.

Julie Newman from Australia’s Network of Concerned Farmers is asking for immediate legislative protection to ensure farmers can claim compensation if incomes are adversely affected.

This echoes calls made by New Zealand farmers for stricter liability laws to be introduced so that innocent farmers and the taxpayer are not left carrying the costs of damage.

In a similar decision to that of the Commerce Commission in New Zealand, the ACCC has confirmed that in order to market products as "non-GM" or "GM-free" as demanded by consumers internationally Australian farmers must ensure there is no trace of GM canola in consignments.

"We knew something like this would happen eventually but the test is to see where the liability for this recklessness lies and it had better not rest with the non-GM farmers that do not want this GM product in their crops," says Julie Newman .

"Jim Sutton must raise the issue of liabilty and compensation payouts with his US counterpart," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"The NZ government has been slow to recognise the need to ensure compensation mechanisms are in place to protect our farmers from loss of income as a result of markets rejecting contaminated products because of errors by US and other companies overseas."

Failure to address the issue of strict liability to ensure it rests with those responsible for the contamination leaves New Zealand's economic well being at risk and exposes us to potential cost running to billions of dollars for clean-up and in lost exports.




Farmers slam Bayer Cropscience for contamination

Farmers are outraged at the report that there was 0.1% contamination found in an Australian Barley Board non-GM canola consignment destined for Japan.

"If Bayer Cropscience think that farmers are going to accept losses in markets or additional costs because of these unwanted GM genes, they can think again," said Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers. "Wake up Bayer, it is a major problem for farmers and markets and because there is a moratorium the problem is for Bayer Cropscience to recall the product."

"We don't want liability for a product we do not want and do not need, Yet farmers sign guarantees that we have no GM in our produce" she explained. "Liability should be on Bayer Cropscience's shoulders, not on farmers."

"If we can not control contamination coming from across the other side of the world, how on earth can we control it with a 5 metre buffer zone as suggested. Saying that is the fault of United States and Canada due to some imported breeding lines is ludicrous and little more than an excuse that gives others the blame for negligence."

The Australian Oilseeds Federation is pushing for tolerance levels where some "adventitous presence" of GM is allowed in non-GM seed. The ACCC has confirmed that in order to market as "non-GM" or "GM-free" there must be no trace of GM canola in the consignment. Markets and supply chains are demanding guarantees of no trace of GM in many Australian products.

"Setting a tolerance level that does not comply with law and does not comply with market demand is totally negligent" said Mrs Newman. The Network of Concerned Farmers is asking for immediate legislative protection to ensure farmers can claim compensation if incomes are adversely affected."We knew something like this would happen eventually but the test is to see where the liability for this recklessness lies and it had better not rest with the non-GM farmers that do not want this GM product in their crops."

US Agriculture Secretary to visit NZ
18 July 2005

A high-ranking member of the United States government is to visit New Zealand next month.

Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton confirmed today that his US counterpart Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns will visit next month for two days.

The announcement follows criticism by outgoing US Ambassador Charles Swindells of the quality of New Zealand-US relations.

Mr Sutton made the invitation during an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (Apec) ministerial meeting.

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