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Apples, fireblight, and the World Trade Organisation

The World Trade Organisation dispute panel ruling about Japanese fireblight-related quarantine restrictions on United States apple exports has important implications for New Zealand, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

The WTO panel ruled early this morning New Zealand time that Japan's quarantine measures were inconsistent with the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. The case was taken by the United States. New Zealand was a third party, backing the United States case, and Australia was a third party, backing Japan’s case.

Mr Sutton said the ruling appeared very positive and confirmed New Zealand’s long-held position that Japan’s measures were inconsistent with its WTO requirements.

"I am hopeful that the panel decision will result in remedial action not only in Japan but also in other countries with similar fire blight-related restrictions. New Zealand's longstanding concern about the lack of scientific basis or justification for the imposition of these measures has now been vindicated through this result."

Mr Sutton said there was no scientific evidence that fire blight had ever been introduced into any area through commercial trade in mature apple fruit.

The New Zealand and United States submissions to the panel emphasised that scientific evidence did not support Japanese assertions that trade in apple fruit presented a fire blight risk, and that the various measures Japan had in place to deal with the purported risk were therefore unjustified.

It is likely Japan will appeal the ruling. Mr Sutton said that was unfortunate, but not unexpected.

He said that meant that changes were not likely till late this year.

However, we are confident about the merits of our case and that the WTO appellate body will uphold the panel ruling.

New reports back extended moratorium: GM problems "the tip of the iceberg"

New Zealand's government and regulatory authorities should listen to new research-findings published in the UK and Australia supporting a moratorium on GM commercial release.

In the UK a new report for the government considered 5 different approaches to introduction of GE agriculture highlighting the potential benefits of a GE-Free policy and the broadscale risks of pushing on with commercial crops against the public will and counter to the market demand for GE-Free Produce.

A new report has also found that Western Australia should maintain its moratorium on genetically modified crops until 2006, and investigate the possibility of remaining GM-free into the future.

The state government's Environment and Public Affairs Committee spent the last year investigating the consequences of growing GM crops, talking to farmers, surveying major markets in the Middle East and Asia and travelling to Canada and the US for a first hand look at GM technology.

Committee chair Dr Christine Sharp, from the Greens, says it became clear that WA is not ready to go down the GM road.

"There have been no decisions on what are adequate buffers between GM and non GM crops and that's just really the tip of the iceberg of a whole lot of practical and marketing issues which are simply not yet clear."




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