Constraint on release and investigation into coexistence

This page outlines how, in 2001, the Government responded to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification's recommendations about the need to constrain the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It also gives its response to recommendations about investigating techniques for coexistence and about providing research to help preserve opportunities and protect the environment.

Constraint on release

Agreed that, in accordance with the precautionary approach, there is a need to constrain the release of GMOs (with limited exceptions) for a period while the work, analysis and research identified as necessary by the Commission is underway.

6.8 HSNO be amended to provide for conditional release

Agreed that the Commission’s proposed use of the Ministerial call-in provision is not the appropriate mechanism to implement a “proceed with caution” approach.

Directed officials, led by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE), to report to POL and Cabinet by 30 April 2002 with advice on implementation of a new category of release, including the purpose and scope of the new category, the criteria for conditions and any compliance and enforcement issues.

Directed officials to explore the work involved in developing coexistence frameworks as far as is practicable in the absence of releases, and use that to complement the development of conditional release policy.

13.1 HSNO methodology be amended to specifically cover economic impact and possible regional exclusion

Noted that there is provision in the HSNO Methodology for ERMA to take account of economic and related costs and benefits when considering an application to release a new organism, including “the distributional effects of the costs and benefits over time, space, and groups in the community”.

Directed officials to to POL by 1 February 2003 on the best ways to make more specific reference to the economic impacts of a GM crop release on the proposed strategy of “preserving opportunities”.

Directed officials to investigate the options for imposing location controls as part of considering the Commission’s recommendation 6.8 on the establishment of a conditional release category.

13.2 Minister exercise call-in powers under HSNO before first GM crop released

Agreed that no decision to call in the first application for release of a GM crop be made in advance of the application, to avoid any question of predetermination.

Investigation of techniques for managing the effects of GM organisms and encouraging coexistence in primary production

Agreed that work on coexistence be progressed as far as practicable in the absence of any actual applications for release

Noted that the compatibility of GM and non-GM crops ultimately rests on both cooperation between growers, and the possibility of tolerance levels for GM contaminants by non-GM producers and their consumers, and that further work will be required

13.4 Sterility technologies to be encouraged

Noted that using sterility technologies could be one tool in the strategy in preserving opportunities, particularly for GM crops most likely to cross-pollinate with non-GM crops in New Zealand (Recommendation 13.4)

7.1 A strategy for preserving the effectiveness of Bt be developed before Bt crops are released; 7.2 Develop a labelling regime for GM seed, nursery stock and propagative material; 7.3 MAF develop a strategy for GM-free honey and other bee products; 7.7 MAF develop an industry code of practice for separation distances (case-by-case); 13.3 MAF develop formalised networks for dialogue and provide mediation service

Directed officials, lead by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), to investigate the following issues and report to POL by 30 March 2003 on the practicalities of the following:

  1. strategies to help preserve the long-term effectiveness of Bt insecticides (Recommendation 7.1)
  2. options for a cost-effective labelling regime to identify GM propagative material (seeds, cuttings etc.) at point of sale (Recommendation 7.2)
  3. a strategy to mitigate the impacts on bee products arising from any release of flowering GM crops (Recommendation 7.3)
  4. industry code of practice to ensure effective separation distances between GM and unmodified crops (on a case-by-case basis) (Recommendation 7.7)
  5. a nation-wide network to facilitate cooperation and requirements for a mediation service (Recommendation 13.3).

Providing research to assist in preserving opportunities and protecting the environment

Directed the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology to report as part of the 2002 Budget process on the implications for Vote Research, Science and Technology in implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission that relate to research priorities.

6.13 Provide adequate funding for research into sustainable systems

Agreed that adequate public research funding should be made available to support organic and other sustainable agricultural systems.

Noted development of a research strategy by the organic and sustainable farming sectors in consultation with research providers would usefully inform the prioritisation of public research in this area.

6.14 Research portfolios to include research on socioeconomic and ethical impacts of GM organisms

Agreed that public research portfolios should be resourced to include research on the environmental, socioeconomic and ethical aspects of the release of GM organisms.

Noted that FRST is planning to fund more research in the area of the socioeconomic and ethical impacts of GM organisms but that new funding may be required to implement the recommendation in this area.

6.12 ERMA require research on environmental impacts before release of GM crops; 7.4 That before GM forest trees are released there be a full ecological assessment

Noted that applicants seeking approval to test or release GM organisms, including crops and forest trees, are already required to provide the ERMA with appropriate data on their likely impacts on soil and ecosystems.

Noted that publicly funded research will continue to inform and underpin the management of environmental risks associated with GM organisms but that new funding may be required to support research related to understanding environmental impacts of GM organisms.