New Zealand

Updates + Overviews


• No GM crops or animals have been released in New Zealand. New Zealanders and many food companies see the country’s GM Free food producer status as an asset and a necessity for accessing premium markets. Exporters – large and small - actively leverage off this status in marketing and branding for overseas markets.

• Legally recognised GM Free food producing areas have been established under local planning rules in four territories: the Auckland Region; Hastings District (Hawke’s Bay); and Far North and Whangarei (Northland Region). These GM Free zones were finalised in 2018, after lengthy public consultation processes and legal appeals.

New GM Techniques: GM 2.0
• New Zealand was the first country to confirm that GM 2.0 techniques are GMOs under New Zealand laws. This was confirmed by the courts in 2014, following a legal appeal by the Sustainability Council of the regulator’s determination that ZFN-1 and TALEN were then not considered GM under New Zealand laws, and a subsequent government review in 2015.

Field trials, veterinary and medical applications
• Current field trial activity has been limited to two trials (one experimenting with GM pine and another with GM cattle), and this has been the case for some years.  
• A veterinary vaccine for equine influenza was approved in 2008 for use for horses being transported to countries that require vaccination as a condition of entry, or in the event of an outbreak. The government ministry responsible for monitoring the approval does not hold or release figures on usage, but a US Department of Agriculture report suggests that the vaccine has not been used.
• Two GM medical vaccines have been approved for trialling as conditional releases, a type of approval which allows the regulator to set a wide range of controls on the activity.

GM Foods - labelling
• Food safety and labelling of GM foods is jointly regulated under an agreement with Australia, and implemented by the Canberra-based Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
• Since 2000, FSANZ has approved a number of GM soybean, canola, corn, potato, sugarbeet, cotton, lucerne and safflower lines have been approved for use in food products.
• GM food ingredients must be labelled as such, but there are a number of exemptions, including for:
• highly refined ingredients, such as oils, where DNA is deemed not to be present
• food sold at restaurants and other outlets
• use of animal feed to produce dairy, meat, poultry, fish products.
• trace amounts of GMOs in the final product (less thn 1%).

• It is unclear to what extent GM food ingredients are actually in foods sold in New Zealand due to poor monitoring and enforcement of the labelling laws by government agencies, however it is generally assumed that presence of products containing more than 1% GM content (and so trigger labelling provisions) is low. This assumption is supported by the near absence on shelves of food products that trigger the 1% GMO content threshold for labelling, It also reflects retailer and food producer positions that seek to avoid GMO content.

How New Zealanders view GMOs
• Polling over the decade 2000-2010 consistently showed a majority of New Zealanders were opposed to or concerned about environmental release of crops and animals; believed that release of GMOs is not consistent with the country’s ‘clean, green’ image; did not want to consume GMOs and supported food labelling to ensure choice. Attitudes to medical uses, meanwhile, have been consistently much more favourable.
• Polling has been less frequent in recent years, but it is widely believed that attitudes have not changed greatly.

(Updated in August 2018 Information provided by Sustainability Council of New Zealand)