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Northern Councils Address GM Risks

Press Release 5 February 2013

Northern Councils Collaboratively Address the Risks of Genetically Modified Organisms to the Region

GE Free Northland welcomes the recommendations of the Inter Council Working Party on GMOs, publicly released yesterday on behalf of its member councils from south Auckland to Cape Reinga. The ICWP on GMOs has produced draft planning provisions, a section 32 evaluation supporting those provisions, and a legal opinion from Dr. Royden Somerville QC, for the Northland /Auckland councils to consider.

The councils have carried out a thorough evaluation of the necessity for regulation of GMOs at a district and/ or regional level, in addition to national regulation under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

"We congratulate Whangarei, Kaipara and Far North District Council and Auckland Council for funding this collaborative work, which confirms the widely held view that a strong precautionary approach to GMOs, or even outright prohibition, is necessary to prevent potentially enormous costs falling on ratepayers from damage arising from GE experiments or release of GE organisms", said Martin Robinson, spokesperson for GE Free Northland

"Under the HSNO Act there is a lack of strict liability for EPA approved GE experiments or releases. This means that the cost of unintended or unforseen adverse impacts from GE crops or GE animals will fall on existing land users and councils, not the polluter. Adverse impacts, as documented overseas, include transgenic contamination of soil and waterways, harm to consumers, and contamination of existing non GM primary producers (conventional, IPM and organic). There is also a strong potential for serious economic loss to producers and regions marketing their products and tourism under New Zealand's global clean-green brand, if GMO land use is permitted," said Mr. Robinson.

"The section 32 analysis presented by the Working Party confirms that local authorities have jurisdiction regarding the outdoor use of GMOs and a duty of care to protect their ratepayers and the environment from uninsurable short and long term harm from GMOs," said Mr. Robinson.

A 2009 survey of Northland and Auckland residents commissioned by the Councils involved in the Working Party found that the majority of Northlanders share the concerns of their councils about the risks of GMOs to our biosecurity, unique biodiversity, economy, primary producers, heritage seeds, our food sovereignty and the public health, and support local action to protect against harm from GMOs.

"The challenge for councils now is to defend the public interest, our biosecurity, environment, primary producers and economy- and place methods, policies and rules controlling or banning GMOs in local plans," said Mr. Robinson.

GE FREE NORTHLAND applauds the commitment of Northland District Councils and the Auckland "super city" to address the risks of GMOs, as central government continues to ignore the concerns of many independent scientists, local authorities and our key markets, as well as the majority of New Zealanders.

"Furthermore, a large number* of submissions have recently been made by Northlanders and their councils in response to the Northland Regional Council proposed Regional Policy Statement, demanding the inclusion of a strong precautionary GE provision in the NRC new Regional Policy Statement."

"We ask the NRC to respond to both these submissions and the independent findings of the Working Party on GMOs by placing a strong precautionary GE provision (at the very least) in the NRC new Regional Policy Statement. We ask the NRC, as the over arching environmental protection agency in Northland, to support Northland territorial authorities and Auckland Council in their efforts to create an additional tier of protection against GMOs for our region. In this way, the NRC can give effect to the precautionary GE policy in the NRC operative Long Term Council Community Plan 2012/22."

"The NRC covers the same ratepayers and geographical region as Whangarei, Far North and Kaipara District Councils - for whom the GE issue is an Issue of Significance . It stands to reason that the GE issue should be an Issue of Significance for NRC as well, and be included in the NRC proposed RPS," said Mr. Robinson.

"The Northland/Auckland peninsula is ideally placed geographically to achieve the distinction of a Regional Exclusion Zone for GMOs, which would both enhance the Region's marketing advantage, and minimise the economic, environmental, public health and liability exposures from GE release and experiments."


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