‘Major economic opportunity’ as Hastings District Council goes GM-free

Hawke’s Bay food producers have welcomed Hastings District Council becoming the first local authority in the country to ban genetically modified crops and animals under its District Plan.

Dominion Post, Simon Hendery. September 11 2015

A group of growers and farmers, who have been campaigning under the Pure Hawke’s Bay banner for a GM ban in the region, say the council’s move should result in a “major economic opportunity” because of the premium global markets place on unmodified food.

The council – Hawke’s Bay’s largest territorial authority, responsible for an area that includes a significant proportion of the region’s horticultural and agricultural activity – has amended its District Plan to prohibit the release and field trials of GM crops and animals.

John Bostock, who heads a $120 million-a-year Hawke’s Bay produce export business, said the council was joining a growing number of “innovative, high-value food producing regions around the world” that had moved to protect their GM-free status “to meet consumer demand”.

Pure Hawke’s Bay cited world-renowned food producing regions in France and Italy, including Burgundy, Champagne, Provence and Tuscany, as examples of areas Hatings would be joining now that it had “formally enshrined our GM-free status”.

“Returns for premium products are strong and growing. This added value for our producers reinforces the view that Hawke’s Bay’s economic prosperity lies with premium, uniquely pure and GM Free exports,” Bostock said.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said he shared the producers’ view that being able to claim GM-free status provided the region with a significant economic opportunity.

“We produce some of the best food in the world. There is a premium for GM-free food and we think that for the 10-year life of the District Plan we should use that to our advantage in terms of a market opportunity.”

He said it was a brave move for his council to take but “the community has been quite strong in supporting this so we’ve gone out and done something about it”.

Pure Hawke’s Bay has previously lobbied central government for legislation making Hawke’s a GM-free zone but Environment Minister Amy Adams rebuffed the idea last year, saying GM regulation was best set at a national level by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Yule said that, despite that stance, the law allowed local authorities to make the type of decisions his council had made.

Auckland Council, and the Whangarei and Far North district councils, are currently considering proposals to include similar GM-free provisions in their planning frameworks.

 – Stuff

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