Hawke’s Bay growers call for GE-free zone

Marty Sharpe Dominion Post 3 June 2011

A group including some of Hawke’s Bay’s biggest horticulturists, producers and marketers is urging its councils to declare the region a GE-free food producing area.

Pure Hawke’s Bay believes genetically engineered food production and outdoor field trials involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pose a threat to the region’s growers and the regional brand.

It wants a ban on GE field trials and food production in Hawke’s Bay to be ratified in the district plans of five councils.

Group spokesman and Hawke’s Bay grower John Bostock asked Hastings District Council yesterday to allocate funding for studies on how a plan change implementing the ban might be included in its 2013 10-year district plan.

In April, Whangarei District Council voted unanimously to regulate commercial GMO activities under its district plan and had indicated their prohibition was likely.

Local bodies were permitted to regulate outdoor GMOs in their area under the Resource Management Act.

“We’re not talking about genetic modification in the lab, or medicine. We’re talking about genetically modified organisms released outdoors into the Hawke’s Bay environment,” Mr Bostock said.

“There is tremendous economic leverage, branding and positioning by saying simply we are uniquely pure.

“I grow, pack and export large volumes of produce all around the world and I can tell you consumers are increasingly concerned about food safety.”

GE-free corn that he sold to Korea for human consumption fetched at least US$100 a metric tonne more than corn that could not claim GE-free status.

“The truth is we in Hawke’s Bay have no real scale; we have very high costs and frankly we’re struggling to be competitive in the world,” he said.

The region needed to lift its performance and “this has to be the lowest cost, least risk, and best opportunity you’ve been presented with in years”. Mr Bostock said the group would make similar presentations to Napier, Wairoa, Central Hawke’s Bay and the Hawke’s Bay regional councils. Hastings is considering regulation on GMOs and staff have proposed further investigation into a possible plan change.

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