New report sounds warning on GMOs for local authorities (16/11/2005)

several items including link to thre relevant documents

New Report Sounds Warning for Local Authorities
GE Free NZ Press release

Regional and local authorities will have to protect their local economies from negative impacts of GE organisms or risk major costs falling to ratepayers under the government's current system for regulating GE organisms.

Today's release of the "Risk Evaluation and Options Report", as commissioned by Waitakere City Council, Rodney, Kaipara, Whangarei and Far North District Councils, is a timely warning for local government and conservation bodies throughout New Zealand.

The report examines in greater depth the risks to local authorities and their communities posed by centralised decision-making out of Wellington where ERMA will decide on GMO releases to the environment.

Under existing legislation in New Zealand, an approval by ERMA effectively acts as a a publicly-funded subsidy for GE companies when things go wrong and contamination of land or loss of markets results. Without strict liabilty on the users and promoters of GE organisms, the downstream costs are set to fall to taxpayers and ratepayers through central and local government.

GE FREE NZ (in food and environment) encourages all local authorities to work together to prevent the unreasonable imposition of these costs on the public and to ensure their regional economy and environment is protected through changes to the District Plan and Long Term Council Community Plan.

Local Government NZ should also be prepared to act on behalf of its members to ensure central government do not follow US authorities in attempting to deny local communities a say in keeping their region GE-free by excluding them from the statutory decision-making process.

There is no denying that New Zealand benefits enormously from being able to market produce as 100% GE-free and many regions are ideally placed geographically to achieve the distinction of a Regional Exclusion Zone for GMOs. Co-existence of GE-free and GE production is now being shown overseas to be either impossible or unacceptably costly to all farmers as they struggle to change long-established farming methods to battle contamination.

Ultimately a nation-wide Exclusion Zone is the best way for the Labour led government to protect primary exports for New Zealand, and meet the concerns of scientists, local authorities and our key markets, as well as the majority of New Zealanders.


Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681

For further information, contact: Zelka Grammer, Chairperson GE FREE NORTHLAND (in Food & Environment) 09 432 2155

Dr. Kerry Grundy, Team Leader, Monitoring
Whangarei District Council
09 430 4200
email: [email protected]

This is a very exciting day for Councils and members of the public who have been awaiting this report of an investigation of the way the release of genetically modified organisms should be managed in New Zealand. A number of options are proposed.

Please find attached a link to the following documents: Community Management of GMOs II: risks and Response Options, the community management document, legal opinion and briefing paper. The related news release is embedded below in this email for those who may have trouble receiving attachments.

Ann Midson
Communications Manager
Whangarei District Council
PO Box 9023
Whangarei , Northland, NEW ZEALAND
ph 09 430 4248 or 0275 615454
News Release
Date: 16 November 2005

Four options for managing GMO activities under the RMA have been put forward in a report released today. It recommends that councils consult with the public to gauge the level of community support for local management of GMO land uses.

The Far North, Kaipara, Rodney, and Whangarei District Councils along with the Waitakere City Council have jointly commissioned and funded the report to identify options for managing the risks arising from GMOs.

Each of the options put forward involves changing councils’ district plans to allow extra safeguards to be set at the local level – ones that would act in addition to those set by the national regulator, ERMA.

The options the report evaluates are: making all GMO land uses discretionary activities, prohibiting all GMO land uses, and two others that would make some classes of activity discretionary while other classes of activity would be prohibited.

The report identifies a series of economic, environmental and cultural risks associated with the outdoor use of GMOs. It highlights the risk that cultivation of GM crops could cause, namely economic damage through GM contamination appearing in non-GM crops. This is considered a major source of risk because even trace levels of contamination are sufficient to trigger food product rejection as a matter of course for Japanese and northern European wholesale buyers.

At the same time, the report documents serious gaps in liability law applying to the use of GMOs. There is no liability under the statute governing GMOs for losses resulting from a GMO release carried out in accordance with an approval from ERMA. Costs will instead tend to fall on those suffering the loss or damage (such as non-GM farmers and local authorities).

A further important deficiency noted by the report is that the exercise of precaution is a matter for ERMA’s discretion. Precaution is an option, not a requirement under the law governing ERMA. However, a number of Northland councils have developed policies requiring precaution with respect to the management of GMO risks.

Community Management of GMOs II: Risks and Response Options was written by Simon Terry Associates and Mitchell Partnerships, and is accompanied by a related legal opinion from Dr Royden Somerville QC.

Dr Somerville’s legal review of the report stated that it provided a sufficient foundation for the preparation of a change to the district plan to allow a council to manage GMO risks, should councils choose that course of action.

WDC Monitoring Team Leader and chairman of the Inter-Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options, Dr Kerry Grundy, said the collaborative approach undertaken by local authorities in the Northland peninsula has been a cautious yet responsible way to proceed with this contentious issue.

"It is an excellent example of local government working together to address common concerns raised by their respective communities. It has also been a fiscally responsible approach to adopt. By sharing the costs of research and possible regulation among all local authorities in the North Auckland/ Northland region, the cost to individual councils and to ratepayers has been kept to a minimum."

The report, and its recommendations, will be discussed by each of the Northern councils at their up-coming meetings. Also being provided to councils is an independent review of the report by Karen Cronin of Victoria University along with a covering Briefing Paper by Dr Grundy.

Contact Person:
Dr Kerry Grundy
Team Leader (Monitoring)
Whangarei District Council
Phone: (09)430 4200
Email: [email protected]

Simon Terry (report co-author)
Simon Terry Associates
(04)499 8597, 021 945 678

Ann Midson
Communications Manager
Whangarei District Council
PO Box 9023


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