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Victory for Rural Communities

Victory for Rural Communities- Federated Farmers of NZ Drop Controversial GMO Appeal
GE-FREE Northland
26 May 2018 Media release

GE-Free Northland are celebrating the news that Federated Farmers of NZ have finally withdrawn their controversial GE/GMO appeal against Whangarei District Council and Far North District Council (1).

"Whangarei District Council and Far North District Council collaborated to meet the needs of farmers and other ratepayers, producing two valuable GMO plan changes (2) after robust public consultation over a period of many years. The plan changes prohibit the release of any Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and make any EPA approved outdoor GE experiments and field trials a Discretionary activity, subject to liability provisions including the posting of bonds," said GE Free Northland spokesman Martin Robinson.

“We fully support Plan changes # 18 and #131 without which GM free primary producers, including conventional, IPM, and organic, would be at risk of serious financial consequences, if not the complete loss, of their valuable enterprises, in the case of GE contamination from EPA approved activities," said Robinson. "GE Free Northland strongly supports the Councils stated intention to make consent holders for EPA approved outdoor use of GMOs financially responsible for any unintended or unforseen adverse impacts of GE experiments or field trials," added Robinson.

“Federated Farmers should now concentrate their members’ resources on supporting the production of quality, high value exports which enhance NZ's 100% Pure, GE-free brand," said Robinson. "The use of genetically modified organisms presents unacceptable risks to our existing valuable GE-free status, biosecurity, and the wider environment.”

Federated Farmers has run a number of cases before the courts challenging the rights of communities in Northland, Auckland, and Hawke's Bay to manage the outdoor use of GMOs within their own districts and regions. The courts continued to find that local authorities have the right under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to set their own policies and rules controlling or banning outdoor use of GMOs (3), rulings that Federated Farmers repeatedly challenged.

"We appreciate Federated Farmers President Katie Milne ensuring that FFNZ litigation against our councils excellent GMO plan changes was withdrawn. This is in the interest of all NZ farmers and primary producers, including FFNZ members, and allows Councils to proceed with sound GMO policies and plans that reflect the needs of local primary producers and communities," said Zelka Grammer, chairperson, GE Free Northland.

"GE Free Northland thanks our hard working local councils for acting on their duty of care to local constituents and the environment, creating a much needed additional tier of local protection against the risks of outdoor use of GMOs," said Ms. Grammer.

"Councils work to control or ban outdoor use of GMOs is necessary given serious deficiencies (4) in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, as identified by Local Government NZ and many councils," added Grammer.

“The decision by Federated Farmers to withdraw their appeal against WDC and FNDC is a significant milestone in our fight to protect Northland's existing valuable GE Free status. We thank all those who made submissions or gave donations, large and small, to help us achieve this victory," said Grammer.

"We can at last get on with creating value for local businesses and for Northland's reputation in the global marketplace. GE crops have failed to perform overseas, with lower yields, higher herbicide use, and the creation of herbicide resistant invasive "super weeds". This combined with ongoing consumer and market aversion to GE food means that this is not the path NZ should go down. We must continue to protect our valuable "Northland, Naturally brand" and high value agricultural economy against transgenic pollution," said Grammer.

Strong precautionary GMO provisions are now in place in the operative Northland "Regional Policy Statement"(5), with precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions in the Auckland Unitary Plan.

We look forward to achieving similar policies, objectives and provisions in the new Regional Plan for Northland, given the strong unanimous support for this expressed in a large number of original submissions lodged with Northland Regional Council.

GE Free Northland's strong preference is for a Regional Exclusion Zone for all outdoor use of GMOs, in order to minimise the economic, environmental, public health, and liability exposures from outdoor GE experiments and releases, and note that Northland and Auckland peninsula is ideally placed geographically to achieve this distinction.

see also
Soil & Health Association NZ
25 May 2018 Media release "Soil & Health Celebrates Federated Farmer drop Legal Action around GMOs

ENV -2016-AKL-000262 - Federated Farmers of NZ v Far North and Whangarei District Councils

2. Whangarei District Council plan change #131
Far North District Council plan change #18

12 April 2018 decision by Principal Environment Court Judge Newhook
ENV-2013-AKL-000159 - Whangarei District Council v Northland Regional Council
Topic: Northland "Regional Policy Statement" – GMOs

see also
"Another win for GE Free NZ"
Soil & Health Association Media Release 13 April 2018

16 April 2018 Radio NZ item:
"Federated Farmers Slammed by Judge for Blocking GMO bans"

24 April 2018 Dairy News/ Rural News
"Judge slams Federated Farmers"

2 May 2018 Dairy News/ Rural News
"Federated Farmers Caned by Environment Court"

4. Deficiencies in the HSNO Act include inadequate liability provisions and no mandatory requirement for the EPA to take a precautionary approach to outdoor use of GMOs

Whangarei District Council's GENETIC ENGINEERING page for details of the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural risks of outdoor use of GMOs
which also contains more information about the good work of the Northland/ Auckland "Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Management Options"

5. Northland Regional Council approved the "Regional Policy Statement" precautionary GE/GMO wording (as instructed by Principal Environment Court Judge Newhook in his recent 12 April 2018 decision in favour of appellant Whangarei District Council and interested parties and AGAINST Federated Farmers of NZ) at its 15 May 2018 full council meeting.

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