Decade of talks and in action on GMO

By Lindy Laird

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After 10 years of spadework, the Whangarei District Council has made a ground-breaking decision about genetically modified organisms in its patch.

On Wednesday the council agreed to seek changes to the district plan based on findings that the outdoor use of GMOs poses significant environmental, economic and socio-cultural risks to communities.

It has supported the findings of the Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management that GMO-use could and should be controlled through councils' district plans.

People would be able to apply to use GMOs under the proposed plan change but it would put in place remedies for unexpected outcomes, WDC Living Committee chairwoman Shelley Deeming said.

The district councils in the working party hold that the Government's Environmental Protection Agency does not address issues of liability and compensation if GMO products were to jump the fence.

Northland Regional Council, on the other hand, has resisted pressure to include strong GMO precautions in its long-term plans because that council says central Government has the risks covered.

Last week's unanimous decision was the result of 10 years of effort between councils and the community, and inter-council cooperation, Ms Deeming said.

"We have maximised our joint resources to assess risk in a systematic way and decide how to address them in a way that is workable."

She paid tribute to the council's Futures Planning team leader Dr Kerry Grundy, who convened the inter-council working group and provided research and guidance on which the ground-breaking decision was based. Dr Grundy said the collaborative approach had been a cautious yet responsible way to proceed with a contentious and complex issue.

The plan change cannot be actioned until a public process involving consultation, submissions and hearings.

Zelka Grammer, from GE Free Northland, said applications for any field trials in Northland would now face significant deterrents in that additional tier of protection imposed by local councils.

Far North District Council will be the next Northland council to vote on the recommendations.


- Northern Advocate

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