The “conditional release” of GMOs puts reliance on protective controls that Government acknowledges could fail, said Sustainability Council Chair, Sir Peter Elworthy.

“Costs could be incurred … even with the conditions imposed at the time of release” states the notes to the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill. The Bill is to be given its first reading in Parliament today.

Yet Government acknowledges that it has no idea what those costs could amount to. “The costs … to non-GM users have not been quantified” the notes state.

“Government’s package of conditional release and partial liability reform does not provide for any specific protection for New Zealand’s market advantage as a GM Free food producer. For GM crops, the best case is that conditional release will slow down contamination of New Zealand’s conventional food industry. And it in no way removes the risk of financial harm to innocent parties.

The new law will leave innocent parties to fend for themselves if a GM release causes harm. Worse, it will not even give ERMA the power to ensure a company is financially fit before approving a release. ERMA can not require so much as a bond from the applicant, let alone proper insurance. This is an open invitation to use shell companies without the funds to pay compensation.

Under Government’s current proposal, there is also no policy as to who pays for the costly segregation of GM from non-GM crops.

New Zealand food producers will be alarmed by the financial risks this legislation exposes them to. There is clearly plenty of scope for select committee hearings to improve the Bill.