GE Free Northland and the Soil & Health Association are celebrating the Far North and Whangarei District Councils’ decisions to retain precautionary and prohibitive genetically modified organisms (GMOs) provisions in their new District Plans. This follows Auckland Council’s recent decision to retain similar precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions in the new Unitary Plan. The result of which is a GE Free northern peninsula from the Bombay Hills to Cape Reinga.
Whangarei District councilors voted unanimously last week to protect the community, local economy, and environment from the risks of outdoor uses of GMOs. Their neighbours in the Far North voted a week earlier to introduce similar rules to their District Plan.
“These decisions, and our recent victory in the High Court, represent a huge win for Northland. Our elected representatives are to be congratulated for their tenacity and commitment in supporting the aspirations of their constituents and protecting our biosecurity,” said Martin Robinson, spokesperson for GE Free Northland.
In June this year, GE Free Northland together with the Soil & Health Association gathered a panel of expert witnesses, mana whenua, and community representatives, to present evidence to the independent commissioners at the councils’ hearings on GMOs. Both groups offered strong support for the District councils’ proposed precautionary approach to outdoor GE experiments, strict liability provisions, and outright ban on the release of GMOs.
“This is necessary because of serious deficiencies in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO Act). Government agencies have a poor track record in containing outdoor GE experiments, and the law has very limited liability provisions for damage” said Soil & Health Chair Marion Thomson. “The GMO policies they have now adopted are a sophisticated, collaborative, and fiscally prudent response.”
For more than a decade the Far North District and Whangarei District Councils have worked with the Auckland and Northland Regional Councils to plot a path that works for farmers, the wider community, and the environment. The councils’ decisions to adopt the independent commissioners’ recommendations help protect the Northland region’s GM Free status, biosecurity, economy, and environment by requiring additional local protections that are not required by the national regulator, the Environmental Protection Authority, under the HSNO Act, with an outright prohibition of release of GMOs.
“Environment Minister Nick Smith has tried to portray local bodies as anti-science and anti-progress. His claims are untrue, unjustly attempting to denigrate the robust course that our councils have charted,” said GE Free Northland’s Chair Zelka Grammer.
Despite the minister’s statements, the global Non-GMO food market is currently valued at US$250 billion, and trends show this is only going to grow. It is clear that New Zealand producers benefit from access to this huge non-GMO market.
Soil & Health and GE Free Northland combined represent more than 10,000 members and supporters, including primary producers and consumers, both organic and conventional, who want to avoid genetically modified organisms and products made from them.
Spokesperson, GE Free Northland
022 136 9619
Chair, Soil & Health Association
027 555 4015
Zelka Linda Grammer
Chair, GE Free Northland
022 309 5039