Move to GE free excites Greens

By Lawrence Gullery

The Green Party has jumped on the Hastings District Council's decision to work towards a GE free status to score points against the National Government's "inaction" to keep the country free of genetic engineering.

The party's GE spokesperson Steffan Browning said more local councils were stepping in to lead the way in "the vacuum" left by the Government on the issue.

He said the council had given official support to the GE free movement, voting unanimously in support of a proposal to declare its district GE free.

"This is an exciting move made by the Hastings District Council but they have been forced to take this action because the National Government is refusing to.

"This region by region approach will be able to protect some growers but is not the real solution New Zealand needs."

Mr Browning said growers in Hawke's Bay had identified they needed to reap the significant branding benefits of being able to market GE free food.

"These producers are receiving demand for GE free products and we need to be protecting their market for them. There are not sufficient liability protections for non GE growers, should their produce get contaminated."

Farmers in Australia were already experiencing "loss of income" due to contamination by GE crops.

"The National Government have shown that they do not value our 100 per cent pure brand that so many of our growers are working hard to maintain," Mr Browning said.

"This leaves it to the responsibility of local councils in horticultural areas to protect the economic growth of New Zealand's exporting producers."

The Green Party recognised there were no commercial releases of GE at the moment in New Zealand and it was "crucial" producers' market advantage was protected by "keeping it that way".

The council had been approached by Pure Hawke's Bay during its long term plan hearing this week to consider holding a forum which would be used to discuss how the district could become GE free.

In order for the status to have any legal power, it would have to be recorded in the council's district plan so it had the ability to deal with any cases of GE crops should they appear.

The Hastings council was also keen for other councils in Hawke's Bay to consider the GE free debate in order to protect the entire region.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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