Overseas markets need urgent Government reassurance on GE release. Tuesday, Nov 18, 2003
International media interest and renewed concerns from New Zealand vegetable growers shows that overseas markets are already being undermined. The government must act quickly to reassure them that all fruit and vegetables grown here are ‘GE free’ despite the ending of the GE moratorium, and should fund an advertising campaign overseas to protect our export reputation.
Hawkes Bay grower John Bostock and Tim Averill told NZPA that the proposal for GE onions is endangering New Zealand’s reputation and that our export markets want nothing to do with GM onions.
Their comments reported in the NZ Herald today add to growing interest from overseas markets questioning the impact of the end of the GE moratorium on our export-image.
The government has done little to reaffirm our GE-free status with our overseas markets and this failure to act is starting to have negative impacts.
“The Ministry of the Environment’s new leaflet on GM advises New Zealanders that all our fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy are GE-free but they are failing to tell the rest of the world”, says Jon Carapiet from GE free NZ in food and environment.
Enquiries from journalists overseas are pointing to a real marketing risk. If we do not make it clear to our overseas customers that just because the government is allowing the GE moratorium to drop - it does not yet mean our GE-free food production system has been contaminated.
“It is ridiculous that community groups like ours are now fielding calls from journalists overseas trying to protect our nation’s export reputation. That should be the job of Trade NZ and the government,” says Mr Carapiet.
GE-Free NZ in food and environment is demanding the government take immediate action to advise overseas buyers and consumers that they can be confident that none of our foods are in fact GE.
It is vital the New Zealand government undertakes a public information and advertising campaign in our major European and Asian markets to make the GE-Free status of our exports absolutely clear.
Anything less is to sabotage our current reputation. Even if trials of GE crops are given ‘case by case’ approval the niceties of ERMA’s attempts to limit contamination of conventional exports is easily lost.
Indeed it may be in the commercial interests of pro-GE lobby groups like the Life Sciences Network to have our GE-free export reputation gradually lost. However, this is clearly not in the national interest.
The government and even the Life Sciences Network should be spelling it out loud and clear that all our exports are still GE-free, despite their success in having the moratorium on GE applications for release lifted.
There is no commercial production of GE foods in New Zealand.