The cost of making Hastings GM-free could end up being shouldered by ratepayers, Federated Farmers vice-president William Rolleston has warned.
But Pure Hawke's Bay, the group pushing for a GM-free region, says it will add value to the region's crops.
Hastings District Council hosted a forum yesterday to discuss the possibility of the district becoming free from genetic modification.
Dr Rolleston said it would cost ratepayers if the council took on the responsibility of regulation.
He said there were real questions about the infrastructure needed to control the district's border, whether the council would test crops coming into the region and the effect it would have on rates.
"Can it [the council] afford it? These are real questions beyond this marketing ploy."
Hastings Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers said it was too soon to say what the cost of going GM-free would be, as there was a "whole lot more work to be done".
"Today is the start of a conversation and we just need to watch what unfolds," she said.
Decisions would have to be made on whether the council moved to ban GM or protect the district from some products, she said.
She admitted policing would be difficult but did not think there would be a flow-on cost to ratepayers.
Pure Hawke's Bay member Bruno Chambers believed a ban was necessary because there was nothing stopping people trialling GM crops in the region.
"If GM in any form was to come into the Bay, it would seriously close doors for our markets and reduce any possible premiums."
He believed a GM-free brand would drive up demand and add value to Hawke's Bay crops.
"This is about the region, its economy and all the stakeholders in it. It's about creating jobs and adding value to the Bay."
Napier City Council passed a motion in 2001 to become GM-free. Mayor Barbara Arnott said it was easy for a compact city to call itself GM-free, but it did not enforce it.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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