Hastings council looking at GM status

By LAWRENCE GULLERY


Scientists, economists, university lecturers, mana whenua representatives and farmers will be among the presenters at a regional forum today which will aim to help Hastings District Council form a policy on becoming a genetic modification (GM) free district.

Dr Kerry Grundy is the Whangarei District Council's planning team leader and he will speak at the forum in Hastings on his experience in moving the Northland and Auckland communities towards becoming GM-free areas.

Other speakers included economics consultant Simon Terry, professor Jack Heinemann, a lecturer in genetics at the University of Canterbury and Dr Michael Dunbier, a research scientist specialising in genetics and plant breeding.

The GM issue was raised by food producers at the Hastings council's long-term plan hearing in June. A group called Pure Hawke's Bay put a case forward for a GM-free district and the council voted to support the proposal, but only after a forum to talk about what it would mean for the greater Hawke's Bay region.

Pure Hawke's Bay argued a GM-free status would give food producers in the region a point of difference when marketing overseas and put tighter rules around applications for GM crops to be grown in the district.

Pure Hawke's Bay member Bruno Chambers said the group was keen to see the GM issue progressed to the stage where it could be written into the council's district plan.

"We are looking forward to the forum and it will be interesting to hear from such a wide range of speakers for and against GM. We are lucky the council has managed to acquire this number of authorities on the issue."

It would be up to the council to decide whether more forums were held on the subject.

"It depends on whether the council feels it is informed enough from this forum and that it has enough feedback from the public to have a mandate to go forward and put this in its district plan."

The GM debate was also mentioned in a number of submissions made to the council's Rural Areas discussion document, which was part of its review of its district plan, due to be changed next year.

Representatives from Pure Hawke's Bay and GE Free Hawke's Bay will also present at the forum along with Federated Farmers president and vice-president Bruce Wills and Dr William Rolleston.

The public forum will be held in the Assembly Room at the Hawke's Bay Opera House in Hastings from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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