Evidence of regulatory failures by authorities was centre stage at the hearings for The Whangarei and Far North District Councils to finalise plan changes on genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).
Three commissioners on the panel heard evidence from the Whangarei District Council, Soil and Health, and GE Free Northland and other submitters supporting a local tier of controls on GE field experiments and commercial release.
These plan changes are being opposed by Federated Farmers of New Zealand and The Ministry for the Environment (MfE). Ms. Guthrie, MfE’s policy team leader said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) view is that the only body to regulate GMOs is the EPA, stating that industry must be able to agree to any proposals. She said that persons suffering harm as a result of GMO approvals could sue under common law if they were harmed by GE material.
“The Ministry has disregarded the community concerns on this issue. A majority of people want their councils to be able to impose precautionary rules on GMO’s in their region,” said Jon Carapiet spokesperson for GE Free NZ.
The presentation by GE Free NZ included expert evidence of the potential threat to native bees and their habitat from GMO's. Native insects are major pollinators of indigenous plants and a more minor but very important pollinators of exotic ones.
The history of previous breaches at GE trial sites was also highlighted as well as the related cost to the New Zealand taxpayer for clean up. Examples include GE trees by Scion, and the withdrawal of industry investment for GE Animal trials at Ruakura which left AgResearch in the lurch . Also cited was the failed GE sheep trial by overseas company PPL Therapeutics which went bankrupt and left the New Zealand taxpayer to cover the costs of shutting down the site at Whakamaru. That site contains the ashes of three thousand GE sheep, yet there is no monitoring of contamination and no oversight by either the EPA or the local council.
“Whakamaru is a forgotten contaminated site that should be considered a biosecurity risk but the EPA has washed its hands of it. Worse is that the Minister for the Environment is refusing to allow local councils to put precautions around this type of activity,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ.
Local councils must be able to protect their communities from environmental damage and regulatory failure. GE Free fully supports the policies and objectives put in place in the plans and opposes moves by the Minister and commercial interests to block local communities from determining their future.
 Far North District Council & Whangarei District Council Proposed District Plan change-Genetically Modified Organisms http://www.gefree.org.nz/ge-free-court-council-submissions/
Jon Carapiet 0210507681
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731