16 March 2006
New Zealand is now the only country standing in the way of an international agreement on labelling of GE organisms traded across borders.
“We have been the object of international condemnation for some time for being one of the countries to block agreement. Now, to our shame, we stand alone in wanting to deny developing countries the protection of a robust international standard,” Greens Environment Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.
“We have strong rules at our own borders but are seeking to deny that to the countries that cannot afford the kinds of testing regimes we have in place. It is a shameful stance. The Government likes to portray our role as being a good international citizen, but in this instance we are acting like an international vandal. We need to pull our head in.”
Last May in Montreal, New Zealand and Brazil prevented an international meeting – the Second Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol – from reaching any decision on labelling of traded living GE organisms.
This week, the third meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol is being held in Brazil, and New Zealand has now become isolated after Brazil has changed its negotiating position.
“All the other countries party to the convention are supporting a more robust labelling regime. Brazil has come up with a compromise that is now under discussion but New Zealand is still playing a spoiler role,” Mr Tanczos says.
The United States is not a party to the convention and Nandor suggests that this may explain why New Zealand has taken this stance while refusing to give reasons for objections to labelling, both at the international forum and in Parliament this week in response to questions in the House.
New Zealand has been insisting on the wording “may contain GMOs” and refusing to give any explanation for rejecting the “does contain GMOs” wording. The “may contain GMOs” wording is largely uninformative just as “may contain traces of nuts” is uninformative when it occurs on every item of processed food in supermarkets.
“The wording ‘may contain GMOs’ puts the onus on importing countries to test the shipments for GE organisms rather than on the exporting country where the responsibility should lie,” Mr Tanczos says.