11/08/2013

Gaping Hole Created by Change to RMA, Weakening Governance and Democracy

 

The National government is seeking to strike out the voice of communities wanting clean, safe food production that benefits local economies and exports, and are creating a hole that will add to destruction of food safety and environmental standards in New Zealand.

Instead of fixing the problems with the 'Hazardous Substances and New Organisms' (HSNO) Act to require containment of GM organisms, New Zealand is being sold out by the changes to the RMA announced by Environment Minister Amy Adams, and faces a heavy price in environmental, human health and economic harm.

The planned changes to the RMA dismantle a crucial local level of consideration of GMOs to go beyond central government's deeply flawed 'think big', and 'pick winners' strategy. The change to the RMA will create a black hole in regulation. The EPA has no power or control once a GMO is released. Leaving all and any responsibility to the EPA is a recipe for disaster.

The removal of councils' ability to control hazardous substances and new organisms sets up another "Leaky Buildings" scenario for GMOs, this time on a much greater scale. The EPA has no power to apply long-term regulation of GMOs or fund decontamination, yet the government is tying the hands of local government under the RMA so they cannot protect their communities.
There is no commercial insurance for GM damage. Requiring a bond and proof of financial fitness is one tool under the RMA that councils have considered to motivate users of GMOs to comply with rules to prevent escape and stop contamination. This is what the government wants to deprive councils from be able to do.

Failing to learn the lessons of past failures by government regulators and from the current Fonterra debacle, the move will increase the impact of conflicts of interests at the EPA and MPI. It is working against a sustainable future, adding to environmental degradation and the destruction of New Zealand's reputation.

“The Minister is gagging people from speaking up for the country's rural economy, communities and environment,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.

"The Minister's justification for changes to the RMA are nonsense. The HSNO Act and the RMA are meant to protect the nation and communities in different ways. There is no duplication in communities wanting more stringent protections than the sister Act allows. The Minister must allow for the right of communities to have a say on how their region is managed. Communities demand this of their Councils to meet their duty of care."

"The government has got it wrong, and need to stop and think. They are changing the wrong law," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-free NZ in food and environment.

"Local Government New Zealand have been requesting for many years for a stop to the public subsidy of risk with GMOs, and for laws to hold users of GMO's liable for long term damage. Instead of undermining the RMA they should be fixing the gaping holes in the HSNO Act. The evidence from overseas shows clearly that New Zealand's best interests are served by restricting genetic engineering to fully contained, ethical applications."

"The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) jurisdiction is only for the experimentation of plants and animals. Once released the burden of problems arising from commercialised GMOs that have 'gone wrong' will fall to the very communities about to be disenfranchised by changes to the RMA," said Jon Carapiet.

The growing body of scientific evidence on the dangers of GE foods is showing that GE production is not providing safe healthy foods for consumers but toxic pesticide laden foods that risk lifelong chronic illness and early deaths. It is this recognition that makes communities demand protection from their councils, when central government has failed in its duty.

New Zealand has trials of GE animals in Ruakura, and GE pine trees in Rotorua. These and other trials have breached controls and caused unnecessary animal suffering. The history has been one of GE trials being run in such a cavalier and unscientific manner that GE plants have been allowed to flower, causing MAF to close down trial facilities. Earlier this year laboratory breaches caused a deadly fungus to escape from containment, with the report on what went wrong still unpublished.

References:
Summary of Reform Proposals. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/resource-management-summary-reform-proposals.pdf

ENDS:
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 /02348 6731
Jon Carapiet 021050768

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