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Minister buying needless fight with local authorities

Maryan Street
Environment Spokesperson

4 July 2013

Minister buying needless fight with local authorities

If Amy Adams is going to take the heavy handed option of legislating against local councils’ ability to restrict genetically modified organisms in food production, she is buying an unnecessary fight, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson, Maryan Street.

“The Minister would be better to work with councils and local authorities around the country to ensure that there is either agreement that the national level legislation provides sufficient protection, or agreement on changes for improved protection, specifically around the use of GMOs in the food chain.

“Following the 2001 Royal Commission into genetic modification the Labour Government put in a robust regime to prevent genetically modified products getting into the New Zealand food system. This left open the prospect of local councils imposing more stringent requirements on the release of genetically modified products. We supported that position then and we support it now.

“While the existing regulatory regime deals with the safety of GMOs in the food chain, it doesn’t address the broader issue of whether such a move is in the best interests of our food industry - by enhancing our 100% pure brand.

“This is not something which can or should be done on a territorial authority by territorial authority basis. Over the last 10 years a consensus has begun to develop that certifying products as GE-free is good for the New Zealand food industry and the economy. We don’t need genetic modification to produce high quality food. That is what we already do supremely well.

“It is also true that increasingly, people are refusing to buy genetically modified food, so why would we want to produce it? We should be using our GE-free status in food production to market ourselves to the world as a GE-free food producer which consumers can trust.

“We must ensure that producers of food products can protect their GE-free branding and the market edge that gives us.

“Amy Adams should be working with regions such as Northland, Auckland, Hawke’s Bay and the Bay of Plenty which want to protect their reputation for their quality produce, not threatening them with legal restraints.

“People are concerned about the food we produce and these local bodies are trying to do the right thing by their people and their producers. The Minister should listen more closely to them instead of trying to run them over,” said Maryan Street.

ENDS

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