Hawke’s Bay Today: Call to make most of GE free status

An easy economic boost is within Hawke’s Bay’s grasp by making official its current genetically engineered (GE) free food status, says grower John Bostock of Pure Hawke’s Bay (PHB).

The group of growers commissioned a Colmar Brunton poll that shows councils have a clear mandate for the move – 84 per cent of Hawke’s Bay residents want the region to remain GE free.

“This is about putting Hawke’s Bay on the map as one of the world’s premium food producing regions,” Mr Bostock said.

“If you want to position as a premium producer, you don’t go anywhere near GE.

“Premium buyers like Tesco Wholefoods and Waitrose don’t want a bar of GE food.”

PHB are asking for a 10 year GE free declaration, for outdoor use, from councils. Currently New Zealand is GE free but that situation could change “at any time”.

“Capturing that market opportunity requires certainty,” PHB member and stud farmer Will MacFarlane said.

“Hawke’s Bay food producers and exporters need to know that there are not going to be any GE releases. This is where our councils come in because only they can secure legal GE free food status. Central government can’t and won’t.”

Mr Bostock said a ten-year council embrace of the status quo would give growers a quick and easy premium.

“I sell my waxy maize to Korea and we get a significant premium on US-grown waxy maize on the premise of its GE free status.”

There would be little opportunity cost, he said.

“The GE lobby has promised a lot of silver bullets – in terms of pesticide reduction – but the reality has fallen far short.

“We don’t see anything on the horizon that would be so seductive or valuable that would make it worthwhile to go ahead with GE. That might change, which is why we are only asking for a 10-year declaration.”

Hawke’s Bay would not be the first region to make a GE-free declaration. “Tasmania and regions in France and Italy have done this and they are getting huge economic benefit.

“Among them are Burgundy, Champagne, Provence and Tuscany – regions whose names are synonymous with good food and rich traditions in food production.

“I’m certain councils will see the value in the proposition and incorporate it into their long term plans.”

Mr MacFarlane said the monetary value was too difficult to quantify, “but Tasmania has been getting a 25 per cent premium on their canola oil”.

“This is too good an opportunity to not take.”

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Patrick O’Sullivan, Hawke’s Bay Today, June 2 2012


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