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Communities urge NRC to protect the region's GE free status

2 November 2018 Media release

"Staying ahead of the pack & protecting our valuable "Northland, naturally" brand-Northland communities urge NRC to protect the region's valuable GE free status"

More than one hundred submissions (lodged in response to the Northland Regional Council's proposed new Regional Plan) strongly backed alignment with Auckland and Northland District Council plans that already contain provisions and policies seeking to protect the Northern peninsula's valuable GE-Free status.

At the 2 day Whangarei hearing that took place earlier this week, the NRC was urged by all submittors (other than one) to include strong precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions into the new Regional Plan and give effect to the precautionary GMO policy direction of the operative "Regional Policy Statement" (1).

Whangarei and Far North District Councils, GE-Free Northland, Tai Tokerau mana whenua, Physicians & Scientists for Responsible Genetics, the Auckland GE Free Coalition, the Soil & Health Association, local businesses and many farmers, growers and other ratepayers sought similar relief, providing compelling evidence to the NRC (including that of Expert Witnesses) in support of a precautionary and prohibitive approach to the risks of outdoor use of GE/GMOs. Such an approach is necessary given the risks of GMOs to our biosecurity, unique biodiversity, existing GE free primary producers and their valuable enterprises, our economy, food sovereignty, and the public health.

Expert witnesses included Professor Jack Heinemann, economist Dr. John Small, marine biologist Dr. Shaw Mead, and Dr Benjamin Pittman who spoke separately on various environmental, economic, risk management, and other issues. Dr. Pittman provided detailed Evidence regarding the cultural values of Tai Tokerau mana whenua and the ban already in place by Tai Tokerau Iwi authorities for their respective rohe (Bombay hills north to Cape Reinga) since November 2012.

Dr. Mead provided details of the risks of outdoor GE experiments and field trials on land to waterways and the Coastal Marine Environment, stressing the importance of integrated management of the total region, including on a catchment level, as any GM pollution from the land would be highly likely to contaminate soils, waterways, air quality and the ocean.

Farmers, foresters, horticulturists and beekeepers spoke about their concerns about likely adverse environmental impacts of GMOs and economic harm to their valuable existing GE free enterprises. As documented overseas, outdoor use of GE/GMO's has increased the use of herbicides, has failed to deliver on promises to elevate crop yields, has led to contamination of seeds, soils, and waterways, has created invasive herbicide resistant "super weeds" and resulted in numerous lawsuits (where those contaminated are subjected to legal action by multinationals or companies with proprietary rights on GE seeds).

Federated Farmers of NZ was the only further submitter, opposing all the other submissions lodged on the GMO issue, requesting that they be "disallowed". FFNZ continues to oppose the good work of local councils to create a much needed tier of local protection against the risks of outdoor use of GE/GMOs, despite serious deficiencies in the national regulation under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

Deficiencies in HSNO (as identified by Local Government NZ and many councils) include inadequate liability provisions and no mandatory requirement for the EPA to take a precautionary approach to outdoor GE/GMO applications.

"We thank Whangarei and Far North District Councils and all those who helped make such a compelling case to our local Regional Council, by providing planning, scientific and other evidence of the potentially irreversible adverse impact of outdoor GE experiments or releases in the northern Isthmus. We urge the NRC to act on its duty of care to its constituents and obligation to manage natural and finite resources in a truly sustainable manner, in keeping with the relevant sections of the Resource Management Act (RMA)," said Martin Robinson, spokesman GE Free Northland.

"We acknowledge the work of WDC, FNDC and Auckland Council, who have taken action on a local level to protect ratepayers and the environment already. They understand the economic opportunities for local primary producers, including in the Coastal Marine Area, of a GE free region, and how crippling GM contamination could be for our high-value food and forestry producers. We note that both global certification bodies (FSC and PEFC) do not allow any GE/GMO trees in certified forests (2)***, due to the serious ecological risks, market aversion, and their adherence to the precautionary principle," said Robinson.

"Northland region's valuable agricultural, horticultural, apiculture and forestry sector (and "Northland, naturally") brand must be protected. Our community group would like to see strong precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions, policies, and objectives in the new Regional Plan for both land and the Coastal Marine Area. Our valuable enterprises, access to key markets and premiums must be protected from the risks of outdoor use of GMOs. Some of the world's most celebrated food regions- Tuscany, Provence, Bordeaux- are official GM Free Zones. That's the club we want to be part of and Northland is well placed geographically to achieve this distinction," said Zelka Grammer, chairperson, GE Free Northland.


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