The Far North District Council is today due to vote on a proposal to ban releases of genetically modified organisms in the district, a day after councillors in Whangarei agreed to push ahead with tough GMO restrictions.
Councillors were originally supposed to debate the GMO ban last month but changes to the Resource Management Act meant a more detailed cost-benefit analysis had to be carried out first.
If Proposed Plan Change 18 gets the green light in Kaitaia today, the council will publicly notify a change to its district plan placing strict controls on the use of GMOs in the Far North. The public and interest groups will then have a chance to make submissions before a final decision is made.
If passed, the plan change would require anyone planning a GMO field trial to apply for a resource consent, pay a bond to the council in case it caused any damage, for example to neighbouring crops, and ensure ongoing monitoring.
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The release of GMOs would be illegal and no resource consent could be applied for. The only permitted GMO activities would be in laboratories or veterinary vaccines.
Auckland Council has already included similar provisions in its Unitary Plan; Whangarei District Council voted to notify a similar plan change yesterday.
The cost-benefit analysis due to be presented to councillors today questioned claims that GM crops increased productivity, giving evidence that similar or better gains could be achieved through breeding; and highlighted the potentially huge costs and loss of export markets, jobs and economic growth that would follow GMO contamination of the food supply chain.
"It is unlcear whether economic growth and employment would increase as a result of the plan change. However, it would ensure these were not reduced by GM contamination incidents," the authors said.
The report added that Northland producers could benefit from marketing opportunities provided by a GMO ban. While declaring an informal GM-Free Zone would be cheaper than a formal plan change, it would not be legally enforceable.
The plan change would be a relatively small one-off cost which could be shared with Whangarei.