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Council Faces Legal Challenge

Council Faces Legal Challenge for Ignoring Public Submissions

GE Free NZ are supportive of the appeal to the Environment Court by John Lawson of Tainui Hapu Ki Whaingaroa and Malibu Hamilton, challenging the Waikato District Council's rejection of hundreds of public submissions on GE. Like many communities across New Zealand local people had made submissions to Council asking them to: “prohibit the growth, development & field-testing of genetically modified & transgenic organisms envisaged for agriculture, horticulture & forestry, except within the boundary of Ruakura Agricultural Research Institute & Waikato Innovation Park, in the Waikato region.”

The WDC heard compelling evidence at the long term district plan hearing on the hazards of GMO expansion and development, and the potential to burden ratepayers with costs arising from accidental release as well as endangering the lucrative organics industry. Many Councils North of Auckland have sought legal opinions from people like Dr Royden Sommerville QC, and others in relation to the possible effects and solutions for Councils relating to GMO’s.

The evidence and information in the reports has led the Councils to implement precautionary rules around the use and development of GMO’s, “until the risk potential has been adequately identified and evaluated and a strict liability regime put in place”. The Waikato District Council was asked by their rate payers to consider the same precaution and the Council assured them it would talk to the other councils. Unfortunately the Council subsequently ignored their submissions, and this is now being challenged in court.

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It is disappointing that legal action has become necessary when GMO’s have become a clear threat to sustainability and marketing New Zealand product. Internationally GMO development has been met with an ongoing consumer backlash. It is also linked to crop failures, and adverse effects in animal feeding and human clinical studies. Crown Research Institutes should follow the 'smart' money and invest in other forms of non-GE breeding like marker assisted selection (MAS). It is concerning to see New Zealand CRI's so intent on pushing GMO development that endangers New Zealand’s export market and clean green status. Instead they should be innovating with sustainabilty and consumer-trends to natural, clean and ethical food-production firmly in mind.

Until this strategic vision for sustainability is embraced by CRI's Local Government cannot disregard the rate payers wish to limit the expansion of GMO's. Under current legislation it is rate payers who could end up having to carry the burden of clearing up contaminated sites or compensation for damage. It is admirable that these people care enough to protect their communities and challenge the WDC's process.


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