Campaign Launched to Protect GM Free Growing Regions

GM Free growing regions are asking the Maori Party to stop the Government from removing local powers that protect their GM Free growing status.

GM Free Growing regions in Hastings District, Far North, Whangarei and Auckland are all under threat if the Maori Party sides with National.

The changes Environment Minister, Nick Smith wants to introduce to the Resource Management Act will take away the rights of regions to make their own decisions to protect their local economy and environment.

Under Clause 360D in the RMA Bill the Government can to stop regions from making their own decisions on key issues, such as whether their territories remain GM Free.

But the regions are fighting back and today launched a social media campaign calling on the Maori Party to help them stand up for local democracy and protect their right to be GM Free, which covers what is grown and farmed on the land.

In a video just released, community leaders, local Iwi, mayors, growers, exporters, farmers, and people from across these regions are speaking out to protect their democratic right to be GM Free.

The video is fronted by Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana and also includes former All Black captain Taine Randell, Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, Auckland councillor and former Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai, Far North Deputy Mayor Tania McInnes, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham and local farmers and growers.

Prior to Christmas, the Maori Party told Dr Smith in a letter that they did not support new regulatory powers (under s360D(1)(d)) if he can use them to prevent regions from creating GM Free zones.

All other political parties have condemned the clause and the Maori Party now is all that stands between the minister’s ambitions for his Government to open the doors to growing GM food and the regions wanting to protect the country as GM Free.

Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said he hoped the Government and  the Maori Party would listen to the voice of the regions.

“We have a duty for our people to provide the best food from the best land on the planet – free of genetic modification.

“We will work face to face and shoulder to shoulder with all our communities and we won’t allow anyone to take these rights from us.”

Former All Black Taine Randell, who now owns and operates freeze dried snack food company Kiwi Garden, said the 360D clause would destroy the value of locally produced exports.

“Our overseas customers don’t want genetically modified products. They do not want to be feeding their babies genetically modified food. This would destroy our marketing opportunities and competitive advantage.”

Auckland councillor and former Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse says allowing regions to make their own decisions will not impact on life saving drugs, as the Government states, because medicines are excluded from all the regional GM Free plans.

“We want to keep the Auckland region GM Free in field and food so we are not putting life saving medicine at risk. We are simply saying let us make our own decisions as a region and how we want to live.”

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, whose district was the first in New Zealand to claim its GM Free status, said 360D was about taking away local decision making powers and he urged the Government to reconsider its position.

“I support most of the changes to the RMA but the change that we are most concerned about are those that effect our ability as a local community to decide what we want. 360D alllows the Government to override our preferences and particularly in Hastings case, where the district wants to be GM Free.”

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham said taking away the right to remain GM Free would jeopardise the ability for exporters to stand out on the world stage.

“Everything we grow is GM free – we don’t grow genetically modified food crops and we want to keep it that way.

“We export and market our food across the world as GM free. This is our point of difference and it gives us a competitive economic advantage and we want to protect that.”

Exporter Philip Bird says 99% ofNew Zealand export produce is conventional and the international markets are demanding GM Free produce.

“I export 25 thousand tonne of New Zealand conventional grown fruit and vegetables around the world and our customers want GM Free produce.”

Bostock New Zealand owner John Bostock, who has been exporting premium produce for more than 30 years, says the marketing opportunities around the world are huge for growers and the economy, but only if it remains GM Free.

“We don’t want central government interfering with how we market our produce. We want them to stand up and let our community decide our GM policy.

“New Zealand is never going to feed the world. We will only ever feed a small proportion of the world, so we have to focus on our point of difference and that is offering high-end, premium food that is GM Free.”

Ends

Background notes

  1. GM Free zones established in Hastings, Whangarei, Far North and Auckland prohibit release of GMOs for the life of their respective plans.  That is, they focus on what is grown in the field. The zoning does not affect import of GM food ingredients (non-viable) and are not intended to cover GM medicines.
  1. Auckland Council is poised to clarify its plan rules to remove any doubt that all decisions about trialling and use of GM medicines will be made by the relevant national agency and not the council. This follows a legal opinion that has suggested that some GM medical treaments may inadvertently be captured by the plan rules.
  1. Section 360D(1)(d) of the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill sets out new ministerial powers that would allow the Minister to strike out regional GM Free zones on the basis that the relevant district plan rules overlap with or deal with the same subject matter as the national laws governing GMO releases (the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act). Those directions would be made in the form of regulation and so would not require Parliament’s sign-off.

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