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Local Regulation of Outdoor Use of GMOs On the Rise in NZ

11 February 2014

Local Regulation of Outdoor Use of GMOs On the Rise in NZ

Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Northland Regional Council and various territorial authorities in NZ are taking action on a local level to support the creation of a much needed additional tier of protection against the risks of outdoor use of GMOs.

An important Environment Court decision has upheld the right of Bay of Plenty Regional Council, in its Regional Policy Statement (RPS), to include a precautionary statement on GMOs. This legal precedent will assist member councils of the Northland/ Auckland "Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options' as they progress their collaborative Plan change to ban all GMO releases and make EPA approved outdoor GE experiments a Discretionary activity.

Scion, a NZ Crown Research Institute involved in risky outdoor experimentation in Rotorua with GE pine trees, opposed the precautionary GE wording in the BOPRC proposed RPS.

Given the serious risks of transgenic pollution from Scion's GE pine tree experiments (pine pollen can spread hundreds of kilometres even at moderate wind speeds) GE Free Northland became a section 274 party in support of Bay of Plenty Regional Council, joining the Soil & Health Association, GE Free NZ and a former Bay of Plenty Regional councillor.

Soil & Health, which has advocated for a GE-free New Zealand on behalf of its members and supporters for many years, took the lead role among five section 274 (interested) parties to the court case.

"It is of concern that a NZ Crown Research Institute is not only using NZ taxpayer dollars for risky outdoor GE experiments, but used taxpayer money to try and shut down the community voice in Bay of Plenty. Our members concerns about Scion's GE activities have only increased after reported compliance breaches by Scion of the consent conditions for the field trial," said GE Free Northland Chairperson Zelka Grammer.

"We are pleased that the decision supports the inclusion of a precautionary approach to the outdoor use of GMOs in an RMA planning document. The Court also indicated in its decision that the Council may propose more directive regulation in the future, including objectives, policies and rules.

The decision has given Councils the right to place policies and rules around GMO land use activities on their patch. Councils can now be proactive in identifying emerging issues that require a precautionary approach to protect their people, local environment, economic well being, and the public health.

"It is critical that farmers and other ratepayers all over the country are able to have a say on land-use issues in their region, especially when the livelihood and economic well being of existing non GM primary producers are under threat from the risks of new technologies like GMOs," said Ms. Grammer.

An additional layer of regulation against outdoor use of GMOs is necessary given the failure by central government to address serious deficiencies in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, as identified by Local Government NZ, the Northland/ Auckland "Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options" and other councils around the country.

ENDS

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