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New Zealand To Sign Biosafety Protocol

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Hon Jim Sutton
Minister for Trade Negotiations

Press Release

24 May 2000


New Zealand would sign the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety when it opened for signature in Nairobi tonight (NZ time), Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

The Biosafety Protocol, which was adopted in Montreal last January, covers the safe transfer, handling, and use of living modified organisms that might have an adverse effect on biodiversity.

Living modified organisms, or LMOs, are a subset of genetically modified organisms. They are living things that can transfer or replicate their genetic material - such as seeds, fruit, grains, or animals.

However, products such as flour, fruit juice, or bread are not included in the protocol.

Mr Goff said New Zealand already had legislation covering LMOs.

"The Hazardous Substances and New Organism Act provides most of the protection we require. But thanks to the protocol, we will get access to advance information about LMOs which are about to be sold as commercial products and that will improve our implementation of the HSNO Act.

"For countries with minimal or no such domestic law, the protocol will help provide some safeguards and mechanisms for considering and regulating LMOs.

"Without the protocol, many states would not even know how many LMOs were passing through their borders as part of international trade."

Mr Goff said that as an early signatory, New Zealand would take an active part in the interim Intergovernmental Committee, which would be set up under the protocol. Its first meeting would be at the end of this year.

Officials would also consult with stakeholders, he said. A review of existing legislation and regulations will be carried out and a national impact analysis report will be prepared, prior to ratification by the Government.

"In light of the relatively high number of countries required to ratify the protocol before it comes into force ? 50 ? it is not expected to be implemented before 2002."

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said that while the protocol represented progress, New Zealand would have to remain vigilant to ensure it was not used to erect trade barriers against our products.

New Zealand is not currently an exporter of LMOs. As such, the direct impact of the protocol on New Zealand exporters should be minimal.

However, research projects exploring the application of genetic modification are underway, and dependent on the report of the Royal Commission, export opportunities in the area might exist.

Mr Sutton said New Zealand was committed to maintaining World Trade Organisation-agreed rules-based system for trade.

Contact: David Shearer, Phil Goff's office 4719 734 Or Cathie Bell, Jim Sutton's office 4719855 or 025 998467

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