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2-Plants: New forms of GMOs highlight biosecurity loophole

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TITLE:  New Forms of GMOs Highlight Biosecurity Loophole
SOURCE: Sustainability Council of New Zealand
DATE:   06 Mar 2006

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New Forms of GMOs Highlight Biosecurity Loophole

Threats posed by new forms of GMOs under development represent a
fundamental challenge to New Zealand's approach to biosecurity labelling

Food plants genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals and
industrial substances are being field trialled in the US and carry a
wholly different level of risk for New Zealand's environment and the
integrity of its food supply, according to a Sustainability Council
report released today.

A relatively new treaty that regulates the international trade in living
GMOs, the Cartagena Protocol, has the potential to be a leading tool in
checking the unintended flow of such GMOs across the border.

However, at the last meeting of the parties to the Protocol in May, New
Zealand vetoed the development of rules that would oblige anyone sending
food and animal feed to specify not just the intended content of
shipments but the actual content, as it relates to living GMOs. New
Zealand was one of just two countries - of 119 present - to object to
proposals for requiring actual content of these shipments to be
labelled. It was also the only one to question whether liability rules
were required at all under the Protocol.

Its position to date appears to have been driven by concerns that
labelling requirements would create additional costs for New Zealand's
conventional agricultural exporters. However these exporters are
increasingly required to give assurances that food products have no
detectable GMO content as a result of strong consumer resistance in
major markets to GMOs of any form, and at any level.

It is the potential "unintended" flow of GMOs across the border and into
the environment and the food chain that is the bigger issue for New
Zealand. Small amounts of these new forms of GMOs can do the same damage
whether or not their import is intended. Mainstream institutions
recognise that new forms of GMOs in particular pose environmental risks
that differ from other organisms, and any contamination of food by GMOs
carrying pharmaceuticals would have very serious commercial
consequences. Yet prior clearance is currently required under the
Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act only if GMOs are "knowingly"

The Council's report, Brave New Biosecurity, concludes that it is very
likely that on the basis of trade interests alone the nation should be a
supporter of strict labelling rules for unintended GMO content, not an
ardent opponent.

When the parties to the Protocol meet again next week, New Zealand has
the chance to realign its stance.

Read the Full Report

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
news & information

phone....... +49-531-5168746
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