GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 18th September 2003

GE contamination may impact protocol ratification

Cases of GE contamination in New Zealand may be weakening the government's resolve to ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a legally binding global agreement that reaffirms the sovereign right of countries to refuse entry of living genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) on the basis of the precautionary principle.

"It is very concerning that New Zealand still hasn't ratified the protocol and that delays may be due to MAF's inadequacies and flaws in government policy," said Susie Lees from GE Free New Zealand in Food and Environment, "If we can't show we have proper systems in place for and at the same time are pushing ahead with GE crops then countries are liable to give our exports a wide berth. Major New Zealand food companies have already warned the government of this."

A government department spokesperson said several months ago that the protocol should be signed off shortly as the NZ government has a good record for ratifying any treaty it has previously been a signatory to, however, recent news suggests that government may be having second thoughts.

Parties to the Protocol must ensure that living modified organisms (including seeds, etc) are handled, packaged and transported safely and trans-boundary movement must be accompanied by appropriate documentation. The protocol agreed in 1999, came into effect a few days ago.

"It is extremely important to support and protect those countries that are reliant on subsistence farming. Developing countries, make up 2/3rds of all countries who have so far ratified the treaty, showing they recognise the need for biosafety. It is some defense against pressure from other governments. Unfortunately this now even includes New Zealand forcing GE
food on Europe by backing the case taken by the US at the WTO," says Susie

Similarly the US, Canada, Argentina and Australia undermined negotiations over the Cartagena Protocol, which dragged on for several years before it was adopted in January 2000 in Montreal, Canada.

Contact: Susie Lees 03 546 7966

September 13, 2003 Greenpeace Press Release

The first attempt to undermine the Biosafety Protocol � an international law which came into force yesterday allowing countries to reject GMOs � appeared to have failed today as the captain of a ship carrying GE contaminated U.S. corn bound for the Mexican port of Veracruz, turned back to the US after a 13 hour Greenpeace protest.

Climbers from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Australia from the Greenpeace ship MV Arctic Sunrise, sustained a daylong protest on the anchor chain of the Alta Mira, which contained a 40,000 ton shipment of U.S. genetically contaminated corn destined for the port of Veracruz, the largest port in Mexico.

The Captain of the Alta Mira said: "I have received instructions to leave the Veracruz anchorage and proceed back to the U.S." 
"Clearly, the captain and whoever instructed him to turn the ship around made a very profound and worthwhile decision," said Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace USA campaigner on board the Greenpeace ship. "Greenpeace today enforced the Biosafety Protocol by turning back this ship. From now on, it is the Mexican government's responsibility to return every single shipment containing GE contaminated corn from entering this country."

"While the WTO meets in Cancun and tries to use trade rules to override international environmental agreements, every day that GE contaminated corn stays out of Mexico is a good one," said Stabinsky.

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