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Exporters Urged to Speak Up Over Risks of National's Biotechnology Policy

The National Party announced the policy early in the election proposing harmonisation of international policies. This would allow any new genetic technology (GE) product approved by two of the 38 member intergovernmental organisation, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to be approved for release in New Zealand. This would override New Zealand sovereignty and laws.

“We urge exporters across the Food and Beverage sector ask the incoming National government to rethink their biotechnology policy for GE release.” Said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.

Exporters are warned that this could risk losing New Zealand's competitive edge against other OECD countries and undermine trust in New Zealand's reputation for safe, natural food and threatens the integrity of the food system and Brand New Zealand.

New Zealand benefits from the highest standards for food safety and a reputation that benefits exporters. Exemptions from regulation and the automatic approval of Gene Edited products if they are signed off in two overseas countries represents a loss of control for producers and exporters. The Royal Society Te Apārangi report noted that to be in “New Zealand’s interests, a market premium is required for “GM-Free” produce and that this premium must be weighed against other potential benefits of gene editing.” [1]

“There is a significant threat to exports and to the economy from National's intention for open up to GE release. The loss of a point of difference from competing OECD countries by removing current regulation will “kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

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New Zealand's point of difference in the market is at risk, and so is the success of our food, beverage and fibre exports. Incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has down played the value of NZ’s GE-free status. Independent figures show a great benefit to exports. [2]

"Exporters need to have a voice and speak up for protection of the proven benefits and export demand for organic and GE-free products," said Jon Carapiet.

The promises made for GE have not been delivered, The Newsroom report “The grass isn't greener“ exposes the illusion behind hopes and money invested in GE-ryegrass which is cited by National and Act Party politicians as of benefit to farmers. [3]

Consumer sentiment in international markets favours exporters being able to supply Non-GMO products as scientists continue to disagree about the risks of Gene Editing. [4]

Although the Chief Science Advisors, The Royal Society and industry experts say the science is settled and GE is safe, that is not supported by the scientific evidence. [5] [6] The consumer demand and economic benefits for New Zealand GE Free exports goes against National's policy that exempts Gene Editing from current regulations.

The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, (ENSSER) point out The European Commission’s proposal to exempt most ‘new’ genetic technologies (GE) from regulation lacks scientific basis. Kieldas et al (2023) reported -

"the proposal will expose citizens and the environment to potentially unsafe food, feed and plants without informing the citizens… the great power of NGTs comes great responsibility, and the way forward must be grounded in responsible research, innovation, and regulation.” [8]

“National's policy to exempt the regulation of Gene Editing (GE) is not in the interests of exporters, farmers, or consumers. New Zealand will lose sovereignty and control destroying the integrity of our food system. The right to choose must be enshrined as part of the social license for the biotechnology industry to operate in.” said Jon Carapiet.


[1] https://fitforabetterworld.org.nz/assets/Te-Puna-Whakaaronui-publications/WELL-NZ-Modern-genetic-technology-2023.pdf
[2] https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2023/08/04/guest-blog-jon-carapiet-premium-for-ge-free-food-adds-value-to-exports-and-to-brand-new-zealand/

[3] https://www.newsroom.co.nz/pro/grass-isnt-greener-for-gm-trial-in-australia

[4] https://ensser.org/press_release/new-gm-plants-eu-commission-has-lost-science-and-safety-from-sight/
[5] https://biosafety-info.net/articles/assessment-impacts/a-systems-biology-approach-to-assessing-potential-unintended-effects-in-gm-crops/
[6] Antoniou, M.N., Robinson, C., Castro, I. et al. Agricultural GMOs and their associated pesticides: misinformation, science, and evidence. Environ Sci Eur 35, 76 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-023-00787-4
[7] https://www.organicseurope.bio/news/eu-environmental-ministers-give-clear-signal-to-commission-to-maintain-the-precautionary-principle-and-risk-assessment-for-ngts/
[8] Kjeldaas, S., Dassler, T., Antonsen, T. et al. With great power comes great responsibility: why ‘safe enough’ is not good enough in debates on new gene technologies. Agric Hum Values 40, 533–545 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-022-10367-6 

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