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Report backs genetic modification fears

JO BELWORTHY
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013
GE Whangarei

GE STAND: GE-free supporters celebrate last year at the Whangarei grower’s market.

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A recommendation to regulate outdoor use of genetically modified organisms has delighted GE Free Northland chairwoman Zelka Grammer.

She says the inter-council report is a complete vindication of what "our councils and other councils are doing".

An inter-council working party has recommended that member councils consider regulating the outdoor use of GMOs under the Resource Management Act through their planning documents.

This would involve inserting objectives, policies and rules in existing district plans in Northland and in the Auckland Council's new unitary plan, to prohibit the release of genetically modified organisms to the environment and make field trialling of GMOs a discretionary activity, subject to liability conditions for any environmental or economic harm that may eventuate.

The inter-council working group comprises the Far North, Kaipara and Whangarei district councils and the Auckland Council. Northland Regional Council is a member but did not participate in the project.

Mrs Grammer says GE Free Northland is very pleased with the findings, which she says are of huge national significance.

"Auckland and Northland have an amazing opportunity to be the first in the country to achieve enforceable rules in local plans on a regional basis," she says.

"Auckland City Council has already set a precedent by achieving outright prohibition of all GMOs in their Hauraki Gulf and islands district plan, but local authorities are now talking about additional local controls on a regional level."

She says symbolic GE free status is not enough.

"We would like to see outright prohibition of all GMOs on a regional level, at least until such time as a truly strict liability regime is put in place and the risks of GMOs adequately identified and addressed."

Ms Grammer says the public response to GMOs in Northland and Auckland follows the prototype of how New Zealand became nuclear-free as a nation.

Fortunately, she says, when proposals were being considered for nuclear reactors at Marsden Pt and Kaipara, local communities rallied to say they didn't want them.

"Post the Fukushima accident in Japan and after the earthquakes in Christchurch, are we wishing we'd had nuclear reactors? I don't think so."

Mrs Grammer says rapid adoption of hazardous new technologies is often fraught with adverse consequences.

"The failure by central government to provide a truly strict liability regime or a mandatory precautionary approach to GMOs is not confidence inspiring."

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