GE-Free New Zealand members, many communities and growers around the country are alarmed over the Environment Minister Amy Adams plans to remove any capacity for Councils and communities to safeguard their region.
The issue of GE commercialisation in New Zealand has raised extreme concern and the Minister has signaled the willingness to 'socialise the risk' of GE on communities.
"The plan to block Council protection will destroy their capacity to pursue regional development strategies for organic and GM-free exports. It is a direct threat to the economy and the livelihoods of people across New Zealand," says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-free NZ in food and environment.
"Councils have been looking at how to moderate the GE-industry's extreme risk-taking and hold them financially liable for the damage. Overseas the industry has caused economic and environmental degradation that the Royal Commission on GM found are totally unacceptable in New Zealand."
The Minister's intention to override the spirit of the Royal Commission on GM, that allows for exclusion of GE crops from districts where they would cause a threat to the farming environment.[1,2], could set New Zealand back a decade by re-igniting the protests and community outrage that led to the moratorium on GM and the Royal Commission in the first place.
Councils' policy and plan development have been backed by the previous Minister Nick Smith's written advice to local government and by legal opinions from Dr. Royden Somerville QC specifying, “Councils could determine policy regarding precaution and/or prohibition under their policy with regard to GMOS.” [3,4,5]
The RMA* and HSNO** Act both allow for more stringent controls to be be placed by Councils in order to protect rate payers and growers from harm and can ensure users of GMOs are held responsible for damage when things go wrong.The High Court has also recognised that RMA obligations can go beyond the provisions of the HSNO Act. [6,7]
But now the Minister is proposing to block this capacity and impose a "one-size-fits-all' approach, effectively caving in to lobbying from vested interests in the biotechnology industry including companies like Monsanto.
Of major concern is the real risk that under trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), the EPA will be compromised in its duty to protect New Zealand.
"Unless Councils have the power to respond to the wishes of New Zealanders to preserve their capacity for GE-free production, the outcome could see our commercial GE-free advantage in export markets destroyed," says Claire Bleakely, president of GE-free NZ.
"Councils must have policy in place for their communities to to take on the responsibilities of a full commercial release which is no longer under an EPA controls. Community submissions have given them a mandate and a moral duty to develop a precautionary policy on GE use"says Claire Bleakley.
“There is now strong evidence of harm from international use of GE, and the threat is throughout the food chain from field to plate. The Government approved DDT and we are still seeing deformities in animals grazing the land as well as not being able to export meat because of the levels of DDT."
The “gone by Christmas” mantra, shows that the Minister has not read the law and may be working to an agenda that goes against the majority of New Zealanders who understand the importance of being a GE-Free exporting nation and are proud of it."
 Science New Zealand Supports National GMO Regulation http://parliament.newsroom.co.nz/stories/science-new-zealand-supports-national-gmo-regulation
 The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Genetic Modification 2001 recommendation 13.1 stated that the methodology for implementing the Hazardous substances and New Organisms Act should ‘ Allow for specified categories of GM crops to be excluded from districts where their presence would be a significant threat to a established non GMO crop use.’
 Part 2: Regional Policy Statement http://unitaryplan.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/Images/Printable%20PDFs/Part%202%20-%20Regional%20Policy%20Statement%20FULL.pdf
Sustainably Managing our Natural Resources http://unitaryplan.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/Images/Printable%20PDFs/RPS/2.6%20Sustainably%20managing%20our%20natural%20resources.pdf
Community Management of GMO’s III http://www.wdc.govt.nz/PlansPoliciesandBylaws/Plans/Genetic-Engineering/Documents/GE-Reports/Community-Management-of-GMOs-III.pdf
 *Resource Management Act (RMA) sec: 32.
 **Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO) Section 5,6,7 and 142
Jon Carapiet 0210507681
Claire Bleakley 06- 3089842 / 027 348 6731