The Pacific is composed of many islands, the majority of which are independent states. Most of these areas are heavily dependent on food imports, mainly from Australia, Asia and the U.S., where GM crops are already well established, and more worryingly - massive importation of seeds. Therefore, the question must be posed: how can these areas regulate GMOs without giving up the imports of essential goods to their economy? New Caledonia is currently considering a legal framework that takes this question into account and it will soon be implemented. In the process it seeks to inspire other areas that are in a similar situation.
Although the French territory of New Caledonia has a special status and a certain degree of autonomy in many areas, including agriculture (1), this legal status also brings with it a grey area on the issue of GMOs in New Caledonia, where French-European law did not apply, and New Caledonia itself had nothing covering this topic.
GMOs were not considered a priority subject for a long time, but this is no longer the case today, under the leadership of the local association, STOP GMO Pacific (2), the emergence of a new regulation has been put into place.
In February 2014, the government of New Caledonia implemented two regulations.
The first (3) prohibits the import of genetically modified cereal and fruit seeds. Although STOP GMO Pacific welcomes this important step, the association nevertheless regrets that the text does not take into account vegetable seeds. However, the text allows New Caledonia to guard against two prevalent GM crops in the region originating specifically from Hawaii: corn and papaya.
The second text imposes the labeling of any food product containing more than 0.9% GMO ingredients. This regulation is similar to the labeling threshold used in European regulations but goes further by requiring the mandatory labeling of products derived from animals fed with GMOs. It is also a beneficial method to promote local farm produce made without GMOs, according to STOP GMO Pacific. This text has yet to be considered by Congress, and the association, STOP GMO Pacific is concerned that the text will be implemented too late. The current draft mandates an implementation date for mandatory labeling by 2017, this date is far too late when considering the incoming quality of food, according STOP GMO Pacific, since Australia intends to market genetically modified wheat by 2015, and because 99% of raw material imported to New Caledonia is dependent on Australian imports .
The association calls for a vote on the second text as well as its implementation as soon as possible (4). STOP GMO Pacific has also called on the candidates in the municipal elections by reminding them of the role they can play, particularly by implementing GMO-free products in school canteens. Initially planned in the draft regulations, the mandatory information related to catering (restaurants and canteens) was removed from the text by the government, placing the regulations in similar standing as the European regulations on the subject .
Based on its experience, New Caledonia is now attempting to set up a network in the Pacific, in order to help the territories who are in a similar situation: nations that have no regulation on GMOs and heavy dependence on imports from countries producing GMOs. The association STOP GMO Pacific has made the visit too many island nations: Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and Wallis and Futuna, in order to raise awareness of the issue of GMOs and provide the foundations for the emergence of a similar regulation. The association has also brought in the support of the Australian network of organizations that advocate for GMO-free agriculture to establish a regional database. The first results of this endeavor are to be presented at the summit of Oceania 21 in July 2014. The labeling of food is the first step of disseminating information to consumers; the next steps would be to provide a greater choice in the market for food products that are GMO-free. The association has still many goals to accomplish.
Translation of the article "La Nouvelle-Calédonie essaime dans le Pacifique sa loi sur les OGM" - Inf'OGM: http://www.infogm.org/5650-La-nouvelle-caledonie-essaime-dans-le-pacifique-sa-loi-sur-les-OGM