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Councils Band Together to Create Official GM Free Zones

28 July 2016

Press Release

Northern Councils Band Together to Create Official GM Free Zones

GE Free Northland and the Auckland GE Free Coalition welcome the recommendations of the Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel, to retain the valuable precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions in the Auckland new Unitary Plan.

The panel's recommendations, released yesterday, would protect the Auckland region's GM Free status, biosecurity, existing non GM primary producers, the economy, and environment by requiring additional sensible local protections (not required by the national regulator the EPA under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act), with outright prohibition of release of GMOs.

"Government agencies have a poor track record in containing outdoor GE experiments, and the law has very limited liability provisions for damage," said Martin Robinson, spokesperson for GE Free Northland.

"The local community supports Auckland Council's precautionary approach to outdoor GE experiments, strict liability provisions imposed, and an outright ban on the release of GMOs in their patch. This is necessary due to serious deficiencies in the HSNO Act and the serious risks of transgenic pollution, harm to the environment and status quo primary producers valuable enterprises."

GE Free Northland and the Auckland GE Free Coalition strongly support recent initiates of Regional, Unitary and District Councils to include provisions to regulate or prohibit outdoor trialling or release of GMOs. Both community groups strongly supports the provision for bonds, without which GE free primary producers, including organic producers, would be at risk of serious financial consequences, if not the complete loss, of their valuable enterprises, in the case of GMO contamination.

Discretionary activities (outdoor GE field trials) are required to meet certain standards, including bonds to cover the costs of any unintended economic, public health, or environmental damage caused by EPA-approved GE experiments and the costs of ongoing monitoring.

Many members of GE Free Northland and the Auckland GE Free Coalition are primary producers whose livelihoods derive from farming, horticulture, forestry, and beekeeping, or home gardeners and seed savers- all of whom could be adversely affected by GMOs.

Irrespective of the threat GMOs pose to the environment, GMO contamination would have significant adverse effects on social, economic, and cultural values.

"New Zealand has already seen inadequately contained GE field trials, in Northland and elsewhere, in breach of their conditions of approval," said Auckland GE Free Coalition spokesperson Jon Carapiet. "We stand in support of the member councils of the Northland/ Auckland 'Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Management Options', who are acting on their duty of care to the environment, the economy and their constituents."

The Auckland GE Free Coalition points to the strong community support for the inclusion of the GMO provisions, as evidenced by not only the submissions to the Auckland Council proposed Unitary Plan but also by the 2009 independent Colmar Bruton survey.

"We are pleased that important legacy GE free policies of Waitakere City Council, Auckland City Council, Auckland Regional Council and Rodney District Council have not been forgotten," said Mr. Carapiet.

To take account of such strong community views and preferences through the Auckland Unitary Plan is an important part of promoting sustainable management.

The Northland/ Auckland peninsula is ideally placed geographically to achieve GE free distinction on a regional level*, which would minimise the economic, environmental, public health and liability exposures from GE experiments and releases.

Outdoor use of GMOs is roundly opposed by a growing number of councils, communities, mana whenua, primary producer boards and other big agricultural players such as Beef and Lamb, Horticulture New Zealand, Dairy NZ, Zespri and Fonterra. This is not surprising given the potential serious risks involved, including transgenic pollution, loss of key markets, and loss of premiums for existing non GM primary producers


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