Cabinet today faces key tests on its approach to the release of GMOs.

It is considering changes to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act that governs how ERMA makes decisions on GM release.

“Government has repeatedly stated that it is committed to a precautionary approach and it committed to the precautionary principle at the recent Earth Summit in Johannesburg” said Sustainability Council Executive Director, Simon Terry.

“It must now make good on this promise and ensure that ERMA is required to abide by the precautionary principle.”

“Government has been talking as though precaution is already the requirement under the HSNO Act when it is not. Precaution is entirely discretionary”.

“This leaves the Government promising more than ERMA is required to deliver and that needs to be fixed” he said.

“Government must also decide who pays if something goes wrong with a GM release. Will it be taxpayers, victims, or the commercial operator making the GM release?”

“Current law will too often lead to victims not receiving compensation” he said.

“Liability should clearly rest with the commercial operators so they are incentivised to take due care. They should be liable regardless of whether ERMA approval has been given.”

Another test is whether the HSNO Act will be changed to ensure conventional farmers are protected from GM contamination.

GM crops cannot in general be contained without high cost and significant regulatory intervention.