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Northland GE Report: Precautionary approach needed

Northland Regional Council Chairman’s Report on GE identifies the need for a Precautionary approach

Northland Regional Council released a report on Genetically Modified Organisms this week, in which Chairman Mark Farnsworth states that the “most prudent course of action is for the Council to take a precautionary approach- GM trials should remain strictly controlled in the laboratory.”

GE FREE NORTHLAND spokesperson Zelka Grammer said today she applauded the leadership of the NRC Chairman on this critical issue, at a time when the Labour led government continues to ignore the concerns of both eminent scientists and the majority of New Zealanders about the environmental and economic uncertainties of the use of GMO’s outside the strict containment of the laboratory.

A further resolution passed yesterday by full council (to lobby central government over its concerns about areas of liability, control and risk of GMOs) shows that local authorities don’t have to wait for central Government to decide the future of their communities.

This responsible approach to environmental protection coincides with the release of an independent review which questions the capability of the Government's environmental watchdog to regulate genetically engineered crops and animals.

The report also highlights serious gaps in ERMA's ability to deal with the range of issues it is supposed to administer under the HSNO act. In particular the lack of ecological, strategic, social science expertise and ethical perspectives has alarmed independent scientists and the community as it has led to ERMA compromising the Precautionary Principle.

"ERMA is shown to be in no position to look after the national interest if the moratorium on GE release is allowed to lapse," says Zelka Grammer from GE FREE NORTHLAND (in Food & Environment).

The review goes on to identify concerns over monitoring, and co-ordinating compliance with relevant legislation. It also points to tensions in the relationship between ERMA and the Ministry for the Environment over controls and monitoring, and says it is in this area that the system of risk management for new organisms is most vulnerable.

The report said there was poor oversight by ERMA of compliance and monitoring of conditions set on GE approvals, and poor coordination between ERMA and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) -- which enforces the conditions set by ERMA.

The report adds new evidence supporting the extension of the moratorium on GE applications. The public have been shown to be correct in not placing blind trust in organizations like ERMA and MAF.

The public of New Zealand need legislation that requires ERMA to protect our environment from GE contamination and acknowledge regional choices to prohibit GE primary production.

It is now the responsibility of MP's passing the “New Organisms and Other Matters” Bill to ensure this happens.

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