GE free

Court battle to keep Northland GE-free

posted in: GE, Magazine Articles

Organic NZ Magazine: May/June 2015

Section: News

Author: Philippa Jamieson

An Environment Court hearing about genetic engineering is scheduled for 24 April in Whangarei. The Soil & Health Association is once again protecting the right of regional councils (this time in Northland) to be able to include precautionary provisions for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their regional policy statements. In this case Soil & Health is working in partnership with local community group GE Free Northland.

Federated Farmers of NZ wants Northland Regional Council to remove all reference to GMOs, including important precautionary GMO provisions, in the Northland new Regional Policy Statement.

“Soil & Health is advocating on behalf of our 3000 members, plus consumers and producers, both organic and conventional, who want a precautionary approach to GE,” says Marion Thomson, co-chair of Soil & Health. “We support the right of local bodies to manage any potential use of GMOs in their area.”

Soil & Health and GE Free Northland are defending not only the precautionary GE wording in the new Northland Regional Policy Statement, but also the Far North District Council and Whangarei District Council’s excellent GMO plan changes, whichban all GMO releases and make any EPA-approved outdoor GE experiments a discretionary activity, subject to additional local stringent conditions. Auckland Council has the same excellent precautionary and prohibitive GE provisions in its proposed Unitary Plan.

Following its success in the 2013 case Scion vs Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Soil & Health is again taking the lead role among a group of 11 different Section 274 parties (who made submissions on GMOs to Northland Regional Council’s proposed Regional Policy Statement).


GE free
People at the Whangarei Saturday Market (a GE-free market!) in April 2011, celebrating Whangarei District Council’s unanimous decision to work towards regulating GMOs on a local level. Since then WDC and Far North District Council have undertaken plan changes that ban all GMO releases and make any EPA-approved outdoor GE experiment or field trial a discretionary activity, subject to additional stringent local conditions on top of what the HSNO Act requires.

RMA update

The National-led government stated in their RMA ‘reform’ proposals of 2013 that it wanted to remove the ability for councils to control new organisms (GMOs) through the Resource Management Act. The National Party wants to insert a new paragraph into the RMA to centralise sole power for GMOs with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This would block the good work of local authorities to create a (much-needed) additional tier of protection against the risks of outdoor use of GMOs.

However, since NZ First leader Winston Peters decisively won the recent Northland by-election, the National Party has lost a critical MP, and no longer has the numbers in parliament to pass its RMA reforms. It will have to go back to the drawing board. This is good news for the environment in general, and for local communities working hard with their councils to create enforceable exclusion zones for outdoor use of GMOs.


What can you do?

If you can donate, we would love your support to cover the costs of this court case.