The New Zealand government has issued a paper concerning potential controls for the release of genetically engineered produce.

A moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is currently in place in New Zealand, but the 94-page paper issued last week proposes a “conditional release” category between field testing and full release. The conditional release would not begin until the moratorium expires in October 2003.

Scientists at Lincoln-based Crop and Food Research have developed Red Rascal GE potatoes which are resistant to potato tuber moth, a major pest to New Zealand farmers. They have been waiting to go on farm trials for twelve months to see how their potatoes perform, but need more certainty about the future of GM crops. They would like to be able to grow the GE potatoes alongside normal potatoes to compare their performance.

If conditional release was granted to Crop and Food Research potatoes it would be in confidence in order to stop potential damage from anti-GM activists. It is also likely that conditional release crops would not be sold for food.