New GE Liability Laws Needed to Protect Public from Officials' Mistakes
The government must develop new legislation to ensure local ratepayers and
the general public are not left to cover the costs of harm caused by
official approval of GM foods, field trials or commercialised products.
The legislation must also support regional communities to formalise GE-Free
Zones, many of which have already been declared unofficially, and are
similar to thousands established overseas in light of the global consumer
demand for GE-free produce.
Current legislation effectively "socialises the risk" on the public purse,
including ratepayers and farmers, as long as those using GE crops or food
ingredients follow the guidelines set by the authorities making approvals..
Unfortunately those guidelines are flawed: authorities accept or ignore
risks and do no independent testing. In the case of GE foods authorities
rely on data supplied by the companies pushing the products, who then get
immunity from being held responsible for 'unexpected' effects.
Moreover- there is already clear evidence that negative effects are not
'unexpected' after all. Independent scientists have warned against ERMA and
Food Authorities continuing to deliberately ignore data and lessons from
overseas on the inevitable spread of contamination.
The Law Commission has also previously issued a report detailing the
exposure of communities to irreversible damage from GE organisms.
The urgent need for legislation has been highlighted by Central Government's
notification to regional and local authorities that responsibility and costs
fall onto local government and local landowners if genetically engineered
crops contaminate natural crops or the
environment and have to be cleaned up.
"In light of the former Environment Minister David Benson Pope's statement
we now know councils and local ratepayers will be liable under the RMA for
clean up costs," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ (in food and
The biotechnology companies pushing commercialisation should carry that
responsibility by law, not the public of New Zealand, since the vast
majority of people see no role for GE in the future of agriculture in this
New Zealand food manufacturers are also exposed to the risk of lawsuits
arising from GE foods being approved into the food chain. Even if the
contamination by GE products is accidental and the harm caused to humans or
animals is 'unexpected', the companies who fail to safety-test or contain
their GE organisms must carry the cost.
Media Contact: Jon Carapiet 0210507681
Link to WDC Press Release of 24 July 07
Contact: Whangarei District Council
Chairperson/Coordinator of the Inter council Working Party on GMOs Dr.
tel. 09 430 4200
freephone: 0 800 932 463