New Zealand's genetic modification laws could be threatened as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, the Sustainability Council warns, and it wants assurances they wont be weakened.

The broad outlines of the agreement are due to be unveiled by President Barack Obama at the Apec summit this weekend in Honolulu.

Much of the focus publicly has been on whether the operation of the Government's bulk-drug buying agency Pharmac.

Besides saying the existence of Pharmac is not at stake, the Government is keeping its negotiating position confidential with Trade Minister Tim Groser admitting this week that the "tough stuff" had yet to be negotiated.


The Sustainability Council executive direction, Simon Terry, said there was no doubt the United States would line up with the US biotech industry which wanted to weaken GM laws as part of the TPP negotiations particularly weaken the law requiring labelling of GM foods.

"While US objectives are abundantly clear, New Zealand's response is not," he said.

"If New Zealanders are to be assured of a continued right to know about the presence of genetically organisms in their food, then a clear commitment is required from potential future governments that negotiators will have no mandate to'trade away' GM regulatory protections."

New Zealand and Australia have mandatory labelling regimes for GM food.

New Zealand also allows commercial production of GM crops but there have been no applications.

One of the diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Wellington and leaked by Wikileaks about a year ago, quoted New Zealand's top TPP negotiator, Mark Sinclair, as citing New Zealand's genetically modified organisms regulations as being among the issues that could be an impediment to concluding an agreement.

The US cable noted Mr Sinclair had said foreign investment was always open to populist views in New Zealand.

On the campaign trail today, Prime Minister John Key said he "wouldn't have thought'' New Zealand's current regime for GM was up for negotiation as part of the TPP talks.

"We've got a well established process when it comes to GM. Applications have to go through the Environment Protection Authority. As far as I'm concerned that's not changing."