Plea for Bay to retain say over GMO rules

Hawke’s Bay Today, Lawrence Gullery

A Hawke’s Bay food producers group is telling the Government to drop its plans to block councils setting stricter rules on genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Environment Minister Amy Adams was worried councils planned to place bans on the release of GM materials into the environment and put limits on outdoor trials of new organisms in their regions.

Hastings District Council recently agreed in principle to ban GMO releases and make trials a discretionary activity. It made the decision after being lobbied by food producers group Pure Hawke’s Bay.

Other councils in Whangarei and Northland were also considering a move to prohibit GMOs.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) was responsible for regulating new organisms in New Zealand but a council working party believed local authorities could regulate the outdoor use of GMOs through planning documents.

Ms Adams suggested councils were straying from national policies on GMOs and has asked officials to review attempts by councils to establish regionally-specific rules for GMOs.

Pure Hawke’s Bay said the region’s GM Free status was vital for generating greater wealth from food exports. The region should have the ability to decide whether to retain the status.

Apple grower John Bostock said the GM Free status was crucial when it came to marketing export food products.

He said producers had no certainty under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act that the region could retain its GM Free status.

“Hawke’s Bay fields are GM-free now but that could change should the EPA give the go ahead for GM crops to be planted here. Councils’ ability to rule GM releases under the Resource Management Act is key to ensuring Hawke’s Bay can remain GM free in the field.”

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule said the government was trying to achieve a consistent approach to GMOs nationally but it would also prevent districts and regions determine their own way to deal with the issue.

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