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NZ's Marketing Difference for Exports Jeopardised by TPPA

GE Free New Zealand

In Food And Environment Inc.

PO Box 13402, Wellington, NZ

NZ's Marketing Difference for Exports Jeopardised by TPPA (GE Free NZ Press release)

The text of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is to be released in the next 30 days, but an outline on agricultural products shows New Zealand's marketing difference underpinning our exports could be lost in the deal.

By agreeing to the elimination of restrictive policies and to promote reforms limiting the timeframes allowed for restrictions on food exports [1] New Zealand could be pushed into compromising our zero tolerance for genetically engineered (GE) seeds for cultivation. Allowing contamination in our fields will destroy a key foundation of our export reputation for clean, safe food that overseas markets want.

USDA Agricultural Secretary, Tom Vilsack, has said that science-based determinations will be used to regulate process around GE organisms, but also says that discussions should be had on the appropriate thresholds of GE contamination. [2]

“This is highly concerning, as New Zealand currently has zero tolerance for any viable GE seed. It appears that in the five-day mad rush to sign the TPP agreement, sleep deprivation has forced New Zealand negotiators to willingly cede the zero tolerance rule,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.

"One effect off this would be to cut our GE-free exports off at the knees, and lose an important marketing advantage for New Zealand."

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Vilsack has a record of attacking the organic Industry and has close ties to biotechnology seed corporations, such as Monsanto. When he was governor of Ohio, Vilsack authored the seed pre-emption bill [3] that prohibited local government from “adopting, maintaining, or enforcing an ordinance that prohibits or regulates the labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, use, or planting of agricultural, vegetable, flower, turf grass, or forest tree seeds." The bill was passed into law in 2006.

This reflects the same attacks that New Zealand Federated Farmers has launched against certain local governments' plans that have precautionary wording on the use of GE in their region. Federated Farmers, led by William Rolleston, a former Life sciences Network chairman [4], has disputed the protections in the Environment Court. This court ruled that councils had jurisdiction. Federated Farmers have refuted the finding and taken the challenge to the High Court, which will hear the case on the 9th of February 2016.

New Zealand depends on its clean green image and markets its GE-free status as a positive feature overseas. The damage to our national reputation could amount to a loss of billions of dollars over the years.

The loss is likely to be much more than the $256 million expected to be gained by the removal of tariffs [5].

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement will need to be ratified by the Governments of the signature countries, but in agriculture could cost New Zealand's brand and export-driven reputation more than it is worth.

[1] Summary of TPPA
[4] Life Sciences Network (LSN)
[5] Ministry breaks down TPPA tariff gains; dairy, meat the biggest winners


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