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Australia's Split from NZ on GM labels

23 May 2005

Australia's Split from NZ on GM labels Threatens Trans-Tasman Agreement

Australia has turned against it's common policy with New Zealand that requires labelling of many GM foods, prompting fears that basic consumer rights will be undermined through WTO negotiations.

Despite similar laws in many countries, Australia's delegates at a WTO Codex meeting opposed extending GM labelling standards to other countries, in stark contrast to New Zealand's support for it.

The National Party's recent announcement that it is selecting as a candidate Tim Groser- a leading member of New Zealand's WTO team, demands that the Party reassure the public that a National-lead government would not side with Australia and sacrifice New Zealand's labelling laws to further free trade.

"The National Party must front up to what they plan to do through the WTO if they gain power," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"The emergence of a split between New Zealand and Australia is of great concern as the current Trans-Tasman regulations apply to both countries.'

Australia's opposition to proper GM labelling in the face of widespread international support for it could threaten and bring about the collapse of the trans-Tasman agreement.

New Zealanders have marched through the streets to make their opposition to untested, unlabelled GE food quite clear.

The New Zealand Labour party has supported labelling of food in response to the clear wishes of local people - and overseas markets.

The fear is that a National Party -lead government could join Australia and undermine the labelling system.

GE Free NZ in food and environment want Dr Brash to make a commitment that their policy and the WTO negotiator now about to be a candidate for parliament will in no way allow the labelling system for GM to be sacrificed.

Such a commitment is all the more urgent in the light of recent reports that Monsanto's research on GE corn approved for Europe found rats that ate the product developed abnormally. Monsanto has so far refused to release their data citing commercial sensitivity.

New Zealand has already been shamed by backing the US in a legal case at the WTO aimed at forcing the EU to accept GE imports, and showing support for Terminator seeds at another international conference. It is even more reprehensible to oppose labelling, and it is vital the post-election government does not allow New Zealand to collude with Australia to do so.


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