New Zealand

Updates + Overviews

  • No GE crops or animals have been released in New Zealand. New Zealanders and many food companies see the country’s GE 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 GE 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 GE Free zones were finalised in 2018, after lengthy public consultation processes and legal appeals. 

Court Cases 

  • Since 2000 there have been a series of successful court challenges ( to the EPA approved GE trials.  There have been no new applications for field trials for 7 years   

New GE Techniques: GE 2.0 

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

Field trials, veterinary and medical applications 

  • There have been 5 field trials in the last 20 years.  Three trials have been shut down due to breaches ( or have failed to achieve a result. (
  • Current field trial activity is limited to two trials (one experimenting with GE pine and another with GE cattle).  
    • GE Cattle -The trial is a failure. The “15 year report on GE animals in NZ ( documented serious adverse effects on the animals. 
    • GE Pine – These trials have suffered two breaches in 2010 and 2014. No new plantings or end points have been reached. (
  • 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 GE medical vaccines approved for trialling as conditional releases,
    • Pexa Vec was discontinued after 18 months due to unexpected deaths and not reaching goals
    • Telomysin – did not start. 
  • GE Foods - labelling 
  • Food safety and labelling of GE 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 GE soybean, canola, corn, potato; sugar beet, cotton, lucerne and safflower lines have been approved for use in food products. 
  • GE 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 than 1%). 
  • It is unclear to what extent GE 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% GE 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 GE 

  • 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 GE organisms 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 2022 Information provided by Sustainability Council of New Zealand and GE Free New Zealand)