GE-Free NZ (in food and environment) is wary of the impact of creating the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its role in taking over the work of ERMA.
Though it is pleasing to see that the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) is not going to be altered to fit with the more business friendly look of the EPA, the EPA structure subtley changes the terms of governance from prevention of risk to management of risk.
The EPA name itself echoes similar organisations overseas and raises concern that it signals a potential loss of public input and an increase in the influence of big business.
The commercialisation of genetically engineered organisms (GMO's) will be high on the agenda of some corporations pushing for an FTA with the US at any cost, putting them at loggerheads with the New Zealand public, exporters, and tourism interests.
"The EPA Act must enshrine the principles of honesty, integrity and environmental protection that allow the public and communities to have a voice in how their country should be run," says Claire Bleakely from GE Free NZ in food and environment.
"New Zealands biggest asset in this world is its clean green, quality standard. But we will become the dustbin of the world if we continue to allow mining of our National Parks, the sale of farm land and valuable assets to the highest overseas bidder, or compromise our biosecurity and foodsafety standards in short-sighted pursuit of Free Trade Agreements."
"The Governments goal for growing our economy will not be acheived if it comes at the expense of protecting our environment, and GE-free status," says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE Free NZ in food and environment.
New Zealand must protect its environment from any change in regulatory oversight that could allow our sacred places and protected National Parks to be mined, or our farm land to be sold to the highest overseas bidder and opened up to commercialisation of GE. The EPA must be established with a vision to ensure that there is a clean green country for the future with stringent rules around protection and liability of big business to motivate compliance.
"Any attempt to use the transition to the EPA to weaken the law around zero tolerance of genetically engineered organisms (GMO's) will have a devastating impact. New Zealand must not lose our GE free status as it would prompt our biggest markets to shun us as a reputable source of clean, safe food."
The alignment of three agencies into the EPA makes it vital that the law enshrines genuine protection of the environment not greenwash, and genuine respect for the public voice not lipservice. Unless the EPA is established within such a framework it will be doomed to fail in its role of protecting New Zealand for future generations.
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 /027 348 6731
Jon Carapiet 0210507681
Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) announcement http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/new+environmental+protection+authority+announced