‘Soft Law’ Governs GE Trial Approvals, Precautionary Approach Has No Teeth!
Attempts to establish the meaning of the Precautionary Approach enshrined in the HSNO Act, legislation governing GE
organisms, remained unresolved today at an ERMA conference on that topic.
‘It is apparent that approvals of GE field trials should not go ahead until a proper definition of the Precautionary
Approach, which looks at scientific and technical uncertainties surrounding this technology, is established,’ said Susie
Lees of GE Free NZ. ‘Until the full costs to the public of the contamination of ‘their own backyard’ and subsequent loss
of quality agricultural export markets is properly weighed up against any promulgated benefits, the Precautionary
Approach, designed to avoid irreparable harm to our environment should take precedence.’
Sir Geoffrey Palmer spoke at length about the issue, describing it as a ‘soft law’ in international terms, he
acknowledged that prevention was better than cure, whilst proposing that the burden of proof should perhaps be shifted
to those carrying out the research to ensure preventative measures resulted.
Barry Weeber, Forest and Bird, also speaking at the conference, felt without the luxury of conclusive proof, the
decision to take action in the face of uncertain science was not being made. In comparison with Fisheries legislation
where uncertainty cannot be a reason for inaction, with the HSNO Act it could well take a disaster before the intent of
the Precautionary Approach was adopted.
Policymakers struggled with the definition of uncertainty, some suggesting that uncertainty around the amount of
knowledge of possible risks precluded good decisions.
'If this kind of shambles typifies the new stringent regulations purported to be in the pipeline after the government
decision to go ahead with GE, our conventional agricultural production is on the line,' says Susie. 'The rights and
costs of those doing the research is being taken into consideration at every step; whilst the public interest and risks
to our economy doesn't even get a mention.'
Contact:- Susie Lees 03 546 7966