The Soil & Health Association is now looking at the marine environment in its campaign to establish an organic Aotearoa New Zealand.

The association believes a precautionary approach is needed for trialling or commercial use of any genetically-engineered organisms in the Coastal Marine Area (CMA), and last week made its case to the Northland Regional Council for adopting precautionary provisions in its proposed regional plan.

"We want to ensure that the council adequately protects growers and producers in Northland from the significant adverse effects posed by GMO use," co-chairman Bailey Peryman said.

The proposed plan, as currently drafted, failed to regulate GMOs in the CMA, despite the Northland regional policy statement placing an obligation on the council to take a precautionary approach.

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"We call on the Northland Regional Council to follow the lead of the Auckland Council, which has already adopted precautionary provisions and banned the outdoor release of GMOs in the CMA via the Auckland unitary plan," Mr Peryman said.

"GMOs in the CMA could threaten the economic sustainability of a wide range of activities that benefit from having GE-free status. This includes organic and non-organic primary producers in the Northland region, including oyster farmers, and any growers who collect seaweed from the coastline for fertiliser.

"Organic certification standards prohibit the use of any input containing GMO material. A certified organic farm could be contaminated by GMOs in the CMA by using seaweed harvested from the coastline.

"The composting of seaweed is a popular form of natural fertiliser for crops for many organic farmers. Any GE contamination from seaweed would mean having to stop harvesting seaweed for fertiliser use, or otherwise risk losing their organic certification.

"Aquaculture is a growing industry in New Zealand, with exports to nearly 80 countries, and our seafood is regarded as some of the best in the world. Markets around the world don't want seafood products that are contaminated with GMOs," he said.

"New Zealand has already seen several GE field trials breach the conditions of approval.

GMOs in the CMA run additional risks due to the fluid nature of the marine environment, making buffering and containment impossible. We also have to expect that activities in the CMA can cross into terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems."

"The OANZ Organic Market Report 2018 reaffirmed that the growth in New Zealand organic production and exports was very strong, and it made economical and environmental sense to protect and encourage organic primary production, he said.