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Councils Left Exposed to Financial Risks of GMOs

Councils Left Exposed to Financial Risks of GMOs

Local communities have been left exposed to the financial risks of GM organisms by a select committee of parliament.

The report of the Education and Science select committee, released today, does not recommend any changes to the proposed legislation so as to remove the risk of Councils being liable.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey says, therefore, that the full Parliament must provide mechanisms for a council to exercise control over whether a GM organism should be released in its area, when this is the clear desire of local authorities such as his.

In 2001 Waitakere- the Eco City- declared itself opposed to genetic engineering food trials within its boundaries. Other Councils, such as Nelson and Rodney have also expressed concerns.

Mayor Harvey says unless Parliament takes heed of Council views, local bodies are at risk of having to pay for damage to the environment caused by something they have no control over. “It also denies local councils- and the businesses they work with- the right to market and brand themselves a refuge from GM releases.”

“In a world context that is a very powerful brand to have,” says Mayor Harvey who, prior to becoming Mayor, was one of the country’s top advertising and marketing executives. Locally, his concern centres on a rapidly expanding cluster of organics food producers.

Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee today recommended changes to legislation that clears the way for GM release – the NOOM Bill.

However the select committee has not recommended any meaningful changes that would address the problems local government raised in its submissions, says Mayor Harvey.

“So, unless the full Parliament amends the proposed legislation it is ratepayers who risk having to pay for any damage caused by the accidental release of GM organisms. Ratepayers will be exposed financially if Councils have to clean up any mess.”

Local Government New Zealand made it clear in its submission that: “Local government liability must be excluded if local authorities have no consenting role under HSNO or RMA for the release of new organisms.”

The liability arises because local government is responsible under the Resource Management Act for protection of the environment. The laws governing GM will not require those growing GM crops to pay for damages so long as they have an ERMA approval.

“Unfortunately, local communities will be left to pick up the tab unless local Councils can find a way to make those who release GMO pay. This is an unfair burden on local communities.”

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