The government’s decision to keep all new techniques for engineering genes under regulation is welcomed by the Sustainability Council.
Last year, the Council won a High Court ruling that the EPA could not itself expand the list of breeding techniques that are excluded from being GM under law. The EPA had determined that two new techniques should not be regulated as GM but the High Court quashed that, agreeing that only Parliament or the Cabinet could make such a decision.
After reviewing that ruling, the government has decided not to deregulate a raft of emerging new GM techniques. These will continue to be covered by GM law, with any use being subject to EPA approval and public consultation.
Instead, the government is proposing simply to clarify that all traditional chemical and radiation mutagenesis techniques are not GM. These were understood to be excluded when New Zealand’s GM laws were first introduced, but the High Court appeal identified a drafting error. The proposed clarification will ensure that New Zealand law is aligned with that of our key trading partners.
The government’s decision not to deregulate new GM techniques is good news for New Zealand food producers. As the government notes, regulating the new techniques as GM is vital for the protection of food exporters.
There is zero tolerance for unapproved GM content in many of New Zealand’s major export markets. That makes it essential to have prior EPA assessment of not just the science but also the economic impacts of any use of GMOs.
Regulating the new techniques as GM is also consistent with leading international opinion on biosafety. The techniques are almost all still in the experimental stage and the Austrian government believes they need to be evaluated for the same risks as current GM techniques.
Note to editors: On 30 October the government announced a consultation on changes to a regulation under the HSNO Act.