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Councils Will Not Be Left Liable for Illegal GMO Use

Councils Will Not Be Left Liable for Illegal GMO Use or Contamination

The Northland Regional Council is considering whether to place precautionary GMO rules in their Regional Plan, with questions being raised about who pays for compensating illegal use and environmental harm.

The Northland Regional Council held a two-day hearing where submitters and experts called for a precautionary approach to the land and marine use of GMO’s. Farmers who rely on being GE Free for their livelihoods expressed the majority of submitters concerns. New Zealand consumers also reflected the demand for GE Free produce.

“Submitters were concerned about liability for damages if GMOs are released illegally into their region," said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ. “Once released GMO contamination through pollen, insect and wind dispersal, would make seed purity virtually impossible to preserve.”

The Northland Regional Council sought legal opinion on this matter and referred it to their lawyers.

The Wynn Williams report considered the 2002 Law Commission report that identified the impacts from the release of GMO’s, finding they could potentially cause catastrophic harm, irreversible damage and long term negative effects. They went on to recommend that strict liability, insurance bonds and a compensation fund be set up. None of these have been implemented.

The Wynn Williams Legal report summarised by saying that although they would have to enforce compliance to ensure that the planting of GMOs would not compromise the Coastal Marine Environment, there would be no increased legal liability.

“This is an excellent opinion and we are pleased that the report does not show any reason not to place GM rules in the Regional Plan,” said Mrs. Bleakley.

“Due to the inaction to protect farmers from earning a livelihood from GE Free production, it is only reasonable that the Northland Regional Council Plan protects their communities by implementing protections from GMO contamination in light of the many submissions for GE Free protections they received”.

[1] GE/GMO Hearings information: https://www.nrc.govt.nz/your-council/about-us/council-projects/new-regional-plan/gegmo-hearings-information/
[2]Legal Liability For Cleanup Of Illegal Use Or Introduction Of GMOs: https://www.nrc.govt.nz/media/13863/legal-opinion-on-liability-regarding-gmo-regulation-in-the-coastal-environment.pdf

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