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GMO-FREE REGIONS & REGULATION: Far North District Council (New Zealand) discusses GE crop management plan





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TITLE:   SUPPORT FOR NORTH?S TENTATIVE GM MOVE

SOURCE:  Northland Northern Advocate, New Zealand

AUTHOR:  Peter de Graaf

URL:     http://www.northernadvocate.co.nz/have-your-say/news/support-for-norths-tentative-gm-move/3960137/

DATE:    21.07.2011

SUMMARY: "GE Free Northland is applauding a Far North District Council decision that brings it a step closer to controlling or banning genetically modified organisms in the district. But the council is at pains to point out it has made no final decision. All councillors have agreed to is a robust analysis of the pros and cons of changing the District Plan to ban or control GMOs. They will wait for the outcome of the Section 32 cost-benefit analysis before making the call."

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SUPPORT FOR NORTH?S TENTATIVE GM MOVE

GE Free Northland is applauding a Far North District Council decision that brings it a step closer to controlling or banning genetically modified organisms in the district.

But the council is at pains to point out it has made no final decision. All councillors have agreed to is a robust analysis of the pros and cons of changing the District Plan to ban or control GMOs. They will wait for the outcome of the Section 32 cost-benefit analysis before making the call.

But, the councillors? unanimous decision last Thursday is being hailed as a milestone by lobby group GE Free Northland.

The Whangarei District Council went a step further in April when it called for a ban on the release of GMOs into the environment, and said it wanted to work with other Northland councils to make it happen.

GE Free Northland spokesman Marty Robinson said he was pleased with the Far North decision, but it had been a long time coming.

The council first agreed to carry out a Section 32 in 2005, after GE Free Northland dropped an Environment Court appeal over 160-plus ignored submissions calling for a GMO ban.

The Kerikeri organic grower was spurred to join the group in the late 1990s by revelations about a GE tamarillo trial in the Bay of Islands.

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Mr Robinson said the council?s main concern was liability. Under current law, the cost of any damage caused by Environmental Risk Management Authority-approved GMOs comes out of the pockets of neighbouring land users or local government.

Even if the liability issue was addressed, Mr Robinson said other concerns remained, including environmental and personal health, and the effects on neighbouring farmers and growers.

If someone were to plant GE crops next to his property, even if there was no contamination, the perception alone would affect demand for his organic produce.

Declaring Northland a GE-free zone could, on the other hand, be a powerful marketing tool and give exporters a point of difference, he said.

Far North District Council spokesman Richard Edmondson said a robust analysis would be carried out of the risks, benefits and costs of introducing GMO controls. But the council was far from a final decision on whether to change its District Plan to control or ban GMOs.

Councillors would continue to work with the Inter-Council Working Party towards a Resource Management Act Section 32 analysis of the implications of local control mechanisms, and $10 had been set aside for the joint initiative.

Mr Edmondson said the council had not given up hope of convincing central government to take the lead and legislate to protect councils and communities.

The council would ask Local Government New Zealand to push the government to come up with national standards, safeguards and indemnities.

The Environment Minister has so far rejected calls for a government-led approach, telling councils to make their own GMO rules through the District Plan process instead.

So far the Auckland, Whangarei and Far North councils have agreed to a Section 32, with the Kaipara District Council due to decide next week. All going to plan, it will be complete by the end of the year.

If councils decide to change their district plans to create local GMO rules, the public will have another chance to make submissions next year.