“Providing more flexibility over how GMOs are released is prudent but does not address the real questions raised by GM release” said Sustainability Council Executive Director, Simon Terry.

A government discussion paper released today proposes a new category of release for GMOs, called conditional release.

“The paper acknowledges that conditional release would only limit the spread of GMOs. The real issue is how to deal with resulting GM contamination – whatever the amount” said Mr Terry.

“Customers in key markets are increasingly intolerant of any level of contamination.”

The new controls could only limit the spread of GMOs in the field. They do not cover transport and processing. Overseas efforts to segregate GM from non-GM produce during transport and processing have proved costly and are not reliable over time.

“No release, whether conditional or full, should occur before the following outstanding issues have been fully addressed and the necessary reforms are in place”, said Mr Terry.

These issues are:

* trade risks to non-GM producers

* cost and effectiveness of systems to segregate GM from non-GM production

* liability law, and

* significant scientific questions such as horizontal gene transfer.

While the paper’s commentary on conditional release issues is helpful, its treatment of liability issues is very poor. It fails to even mention the internationally accepted ‘polluter pays’ principle.