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2-Plant: Terminator debate in New Zealand: on sterile plants and possums



*------------------------------------------------------------------------*
   "There is no moratorium or international agreement to ban the use of
    GURTs in genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," said Mr Benson-Pope.
   "The New Zealand government recognises the potential for both adverse
    and positive effects of such technology and chooses to consider the
    application of this technology on a case-by-case basis. For example,
    if there were some technology that ensured sterility in our possum
    population, would the New Zealand public not expect us to at least
    consider such a possibility?"
*------------------------------------------------------------------------*


                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Benson-Pope: Use of genetic technology
SOURCE: Government of New Zealand, Media Statement
        http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0603/S00381.htm
DATE:   21 Mar 2006

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Benson-Pope: Use of genetic technology 
New Zealand does not support technology to disadvantage Third World farmers

The New Zealand Government does not support the use of genetic technology
which would disadvantage subsistence farmers in developing countries,
says Environment Minister David Benson-Pope.

The Minister was today restating New Zealand's position in the wake of
what he described as inaccurate, deliberately misleading and grossly
irresponsible statements by non-governmental organisations and the Green
Party.

Mr Benson-Pope says so-called 'suicide seeds' are just one application of
an emerging technology called Genetic Use Restriction Technologies
(GURTs). GURTs is a form of genetic modification that theoretically
provides the means to turn genes on or off and is an umbrella term that
encompasses a much broader range of technologies than just 'terminator'
or seed sterilization technology.

"There is no moratorium or international agreement to ban the use of
GURTs in genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," said Mr Benson-Pope.

"The New Zealand government recognises the potential for both adverse and
positive effects of such technology and chooses to consider the
application of this technology on a case-by-case basis.

"For example, if there were some technology that ensured sterility in our
possum population, would the New Zealand public not expect us to at least
consider such a possibility?

"NGOs and developing countries have been highly critical of the potential
application of GURTS technologies to make seed sterile after one season
of use. The New Zealand Government agrees, and does not support the use
of genetic technology in cases where subsistence farmers in developing
countries would be significantly disadvantaged.

"New Zealand supports individual countries being allowed to determine for
themselves the risks and benefits of any technology and make their own
decisions as to whether or not they accept it," said Mr Benson-Pope. 


                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  NZ a lout on world stage say Greens
SOURCE: Green Party, New Zealand, Press Release
        http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0603/S00361.htm
DATE:   22 Mar 2006

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


NZ a lout on world stage say Greens 

New Zealand's position on terminator technology at the UN Convention on
Biodiversity shows a reckless disregard for biosafety and for
international opinion, says Green Party Environment Spokesperson Nandor
Tanczos.

Terminator technology is a branch of genetic engineering which produces
plants with sterile seeds. It is of particular concern to poor farmers in
developing countries because it would force them to be reliant on seed
companies year by year for their food security and well-being.

"We are acting like a lout on the world stage. Just as last week we were
isolated and condemned on labelling of genetically modified organisms,
this week we seem determined to vandalise an international agreement on
terminator technology," Nandor says.

Nandor questioned Foreign Minister Winston Peters extensively in
Parliament three weeks ago over the stance Foreign Affairs officials were
likely to take on this issue at the convention, but received no straight
answer from the Minister.

Now, cabinet papers released to the Sustainability Council under the
Official Information Act show that New Zealand is seeking the option to
authorise field trials for genetically engineered plants that produce
sterile seeds, despite the fact that a de facto moratorium on terminator
technology has been in place by international consensus since 2000.

"Once again, New Zealand is sticking out like a sore thumb on genetic
engineering, for no apparent reason. Our stance on this issue has brought
international condemnation and concern from governments and environment
groups alike," Nandor says.

"New Zealanders are proud of our reputation as a good international
citizen, but this reputation is being seriously undermined by the
positions we have taken on these issues in Brazil.

"To its credit, the Government did shift its position at Cartagena last
week, and back down from being the only country standing in the way of an
international agreement on labelling of genetically modified organisms
traded across borders.

"I can only hope that officials will see fit to do the same on terminator
technology this week," Nandor says. 


                                 PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Claim NZ wants ban on 'suicide seeds' lifted
SOURCE: Stuff, New Zealand, by Kent Atkinson
        http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3611553a10,00.html
DATE:   22 Mar 2006

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Claim NZ wants ban on 'suicide seeds' lifted

New Zealand is lobbying at a major UN conference to lift an effective
international moratorium on field testing of controversial "suicide
seeds", it was claimed yesterday.

"Cabinet papers released under the Official Information Act show New
Zealand seeks the option to authorise field trials for genetically
engineered plants that produce sterile seeds," Sustainability Council
executive director Simon Terry said in a statement.

A cabinet paper, prepared in February last year, said "controlled field
trials will be required" to test the risks and benefits of seed producing
sterile plants.

The seed system, officially known as Genetic Use Restriction Technology
(GURT), uses genetic engineering to deliver seeds that produce sterile
offspring, meaning farmers would have to buy new seed every spring
instead of saving some from the previous year's crop.

Mr Terry, who is attending the UN Convention on Biodiversity negotiations
in Curitiba, Brazil said that an international understanding constrained
field trialling techniques.

Countries that have ratified the UN convention were now negotiating a
"biosafety protocol" to set rules for the handling of genetically
engineered crops.

Mr Terry said a 2000 decision of the parties to the convention
unanimously recommended to member governments, including New Zealand,
that techniques involving genetically engineering sterility into plants
should not be field trialled "until appropriate scientific data can
justify such testing".

"New Zealand and Canada are among those taking the interpretation that
individual parties have the authority to themselves determine at what
point scientific understanding is sufficient to assess field trial
proposals," Mr Terry said.

This amounted to advocating field tests on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Terry said the Cabinet documents showed New Zealand viewed the
existing resolution as simply a voluntary guideline and that the New
Zealand negotiators were pushing for a "clarification" to be adopted.

The Cabinet documents argued that "controlled field trials will be
required" to assess terminator technology, but there was no evidence of a
New Zealand work programme that would mean a field trial proposal could
be properly assessed.

Mr Terry said that if each nation set its own standards, developers of
terminator seeds would be given the incentive to carry out their early
field tests in countries with the lowest regulatory requirements.

One of the risks in this was that the altered genes could be accidentally
spread - carrying the sterility to crops and places where it was not released.

"Once commercialised there is the prospect of unintended transfer of risk
to other countries," he said.

Holding back field trials until parties to the convention were satisfied
there was a good basis to assess the risks would be a prudent approach to
biosecurity.

Rather than supporting individual countries setting their own standards
to evaluate proposals for field trials of terminator technology, New
Zealand should work with the international community to identify the
research required for adequate assessment of such proposals.




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