A free trade agreement for Pacific countries might erode New Zealand standards for food safety and security, say activists who oppose genetically engineered crops.
They raised their concerns before the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
summit in Hawaii, where President Barack Obama was successful in getting “broad outlines” of an agreement among the nine countries involved in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Obama’s efforts in Hawaii means there will be a tenth round of talks among the TPP counties that in addition to the U.S. and New Zealand include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The talks completed their ninth round last month having made progress on some legal texts of agreements, but with outstanding issues that need more time.
Still it has gone far enough to become an issue in New Zealand’s elections this month where a group called “GE-Free NZ” is saying TPP could in the future undermine the country’s bio-security and food safety standards.
GE-Free NZ fears the trade pact will override New Zealand’s current ban on the imported generically modified seeds.
“New Zealand must not compromise the economic advantage of being world-class and maintaining the gold standard for the least toxic, least contaminated, and most ethical food production system,” GE-Free NZ spokesman Jon Carapiet told FoodNavigator-Asa.
Such activists just want to “whip up a frenzied fear against” against genetically engineered crops, says Katherine Rich, chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council.
She says successive governments involved in the TPP talks have “always been extremely careful to protect New Zealand’s agricultural sectors by overseeing and requiring some of the most rigid and robust biosecurity measures in the world.”
Rich also some New Zealand allows some GE products in the country and there is no such thing as a “gold standard” against them.
Media reports about the recently ended Ninth Round in Peru said the TPP is held up on several points. Thomas Donohue, chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has called for the TPP to be an agreement with high standards covering investment and intellectual property.
Obama said now that the “broad outlines” of an agreement has been reached, the countries involved can go to work on the details and reach a final agreement within one year. “It is an ambitious goal, but we are optimistic that we can get it done,” he said.
Obama is touting TPP as a model for future trade agreements as it will address issues not covered in previous trade pacts.
The tenth round of TPP talks will get underway in December.