Protest grows as end nears to ban on biotech plants and animals
Protest grows as end nears to ban on biotech plants and animals
BY RAY LILLEY; Associated Press Writer
WELLINGTON, New Zealand
Associated Press Worldstream
October 2, 2003
As the end of a two-year ban on planting genetically engineered crops in New Zealand looms, this nation that prides itself on its pristine environment is turning into a hothouse of opposition to manipulated plants and animals.
From eco-warriors threatening to tear up crops to concerned mothers stripping to their bras in Parliament, people across this nation of 4 million are boldly seeking new ways to articulate their opposition.
A group calling itself Mothers Against Genetic Engineering, or Madge, this week posted billboards around major cities portraying a naked "genetically engineered" woman with four breasts attached to a milking machine.
It was the same group who disrupted Parliament three weeks ago when members stripped off their tops to reveal pink bras in an anti-GE protest.
Environment activist group, the "Wild Greens," has already torn up fields and wrecked hothouses of laboratory-modified potatoes and are threatening more of the same if GE crops are allowed in fields.
A recent nationwide opinion poll revealed that 68 percent of people want the moratorium, due to end Oct. 29, extended for five years and 38 percent said they want biotech plants and organisms permanently banned.
Despite the numbers and the protests, the Labor-led government of Prime Minister Helen Clark remains on course to lift the ban.
The Green Party, which has nine lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament, warned that New Zealand has no rules in place to fully protect food and seed crops from contamination by genetically engineered plants.
This same issue Monday split the European Union as ministers disagreed over rules to prevent cross-contamination of organic and conventional crops by biotech seeds.
New Zealand Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons told The Associated Press the government has ignored farmers' demands for absolute protection from such contamination.
Any GE crop which sheds pollen or seed, or which could get mixed into the food processing chain, needs to be controlled by "a very strict coexistence standard - and there isn't one," she warned.
The country's law to control hazardous substances and new organisms "does not deal with cross-contamination of crops at all," Fitzsimons added.
The Greens also are demanding a five-year extension to the moratorium which has, until now, confined GE plants and animals to laboratories.
Before the ban is lifted, the government is planning to boost the power of the nation's Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), which can impose conditions on any farmers seeking to plant GE crops.
Trevor Henry, a spokesman for Environment Minister Marian Hobbs, said under new rules the "ERMA could require adequate separation distances (buffer zones) between GE and conventional crops."
But Fitzsimons said the strategy allows a 1 percent contamination level, which will enrage groups like organic farmers and "anyone who wants to market their produce as GE-free."
Henry said New Zealand's seed crop industry already had experience of setting distances "so that ordinary seed cannot 'contaminate' the new variety."
While Fitzsimons continues to argue her corner in Parliament, activists have vowed to take to the streets, with Madge and environmental group Greenpeace planning protests in main cities on Oct. 11.
FAR NORTH DISTRICT COUNCIL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
The Far North District Council is to lobby central Government to retain the moratorium on the release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) until jurisdictional issues have been resolved.
The council is concerned that the imminent removal of the moratorium will leave territorial authorities with highly controversial and sensitive issues to resolve without the benefit of clear legislative guidelines.
Until there has been clarification on issues including the role, responsibilities, liability and risks to councils in relation to GMOs the moratorium should remain, the council believes.
A Task Group comprising three elected members and staff has been set up to liaise with adjoining territorial authorities in a bid to establish a regional approach to some of the outstanding issues involved.
Major areas of concern for the council include "cross-boundary" effects should neighboring councils take a differing stance on the release of GMOs, and jurisdictional over-lapping or "grey area" between the responsibilities of the Environmental Risk Management Agency (ERMA) and territorial authorities.
At the present time, the Select Committee considering the New Organisms & Other Matters (NOOM) Bill has indicated that it believes local government does not have powers under either the Resource Management Act (RMA) or the Local Government Act (LGA) to regulate genetically modified organisms, and that this responsibility rests with ERMA.
However some Members of Parliament have expressed concern at unclear divisions in responsibility between the principal Act (HSNO), the RMA and the LGA. During the hearings on the NOOM Bill, requests for changes were made to address shortcomings related to the role and responsibilities of local government.
Until it is know whether there will be amendments, and until the substance of any amendments are known, the council believes it is obliged to take a "precautionary approach" and to seek regional unity through discussions with the Northland Regional Council and Whangarei, Kaipara and Rodney District Councils.
During the Proposed District Plan hearings, the council received submissions opposed to the release and use of GMOs in the Far North District from 174 organisations and individuals. The majority of submissions sought either a total prohibition or severe controls on the release of GMOs. No submissions were received seeking an uncontrolled approach.
For further information please contact:-
Rick McCall OR
Ph 0800 920 029 Cell 027 224 5423 Ph
0800 920 029
Extend GM ban says Whangarei council
The Whangarei District Council wants Prime Minister Helen Clark to extend a moratorium on the release of genetically modified organisms.
At a council meeting this week Mayor Craig Brown said the council had decided to take a cautious approach to the genetic modification issue. He had written to Helen Clark citing "considerable concern in our community" over the release of GM organisms into the environment.
The moratorium is due to be lifted on October 29. The council is concerned about: the economic benefits versus risks to conventional and organic food producers; who bears liability relating to these risks; and local government's role under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act.
Mr Brown also said in the letter the council had supported Local Government New Zealand's submission to the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill 2003, seeking legal clarification.
"Disappointingly, we feel such clarification was not achieved," he wrote. "Our council respectfully considers that the present moratorium on the release of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) should be extended for a further period to allow these uncertainties to be addressed."
Mr Brown said the council was also looking to host an information-gathering forum on the issue with Sustainability Council chairman Sir Peter Elworthy.
GE FREE NORTHLAND APPLAUDS WHANGAREI DISTRICT COUNCIL GE ACTION
GE FREE NORTHLAND (in Food & Environment)
PRESS RELEASE 2 OCTOBER 2003
The Mayor of Whangarei District Council signalled the serious concerns of full council regarding any release of GE organisms this week, in a letter to Prime Minister Helen Clark.
GE FREE NORTHLAND spokesperson Zelka Grammer said today she applauded the much needed leadership of the Mayor and full council on this critical issue, at a time when the Labour led government continues to ignore the concerns of many eminent scientists and the majority of New Zealanders*.
Councils concerns about GE relate mainly to uncertainties over the economic risks to conventional and organic food producers, the uncertainties over whom should bear liability relating to these risks, and uncertainties over the role of local government under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act l996, the Resource Management Act l99l and the Local Government Act 2002.
Council considers that the present moratorium on any GE release should be extended for a further period to allow these uncertainties to be addressed.
Whangarei District Council and other Northland councils supported the submission to the New Organisms and other Matters Bill 2003 by Local Government NZ which sought legislative clarification of these matters. Disappointingly, such clarification was not achieved as a result of the Select Committee's recommendations.
Central government has not only failed to make an economic case for GE, they have not addressed the serious liability issues. Council and ratepayers could be landed with huge costs if there are unintended or unforeseen adverse impacts of GE release or field trials.
No requirement has been made by ERMA for financial fitness of applicants for GE release. This would leave others to pick up the tab if a GM release causes damage for which the developer is liable, but cannot pay.
Strict liability and financial fitness ought to be central policy planks for a government that has committed to "proceed with caution". Instead, central government has avoided the issue of who is to be held liable when something goes wrong, and has not even required ERMA to ensure a developer has the means to compensate innocent parties harmed by its activities.
Without a strict liability regime, innocent third parties and local authorities remain at risk. Liability for unintended and unforeseen adverse effects of GE need to be satisfactorily resolved before any release of GMOs occurs.
Contact: Zelka Grammer, Chairperson
GE FREE NORTHLAND (in Food & Environment)
09 432 2155 (Whangarei)
Sustainability Council of NZ Media Release (29 September 2003)
NZ Law Commission Report on Liability/GE
*Herald DigiPoll, late August 2003 68% of New Zealanders oppose the lifting of the GE moratorium
Colmar Bruton poll
"80% support for NZ growing only GM-free food"
(Media Release, Sustainability Council of NZ, 23 July 2003)
New Zealand News > Whangarei Council urges PM to extend moratorium
The Whangarei District Council is urging Prime Minister Helen Clark to extend a moratorium on the release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms. At a council meeting yesterday Mayor Craig Brown said the move was in line with the council's decision to take a "cautious approach" to the genetic engineering issue.
He has written to Miss Clark citing "considerable concern in our community" over the release of GE organisms into the environment.
The moratorium is due to be lifted on October 29. The council's concerns include uncertainties over:
* The economic benefits versus perceived risks to conventional and organic food producers,
* who should bear liability relating to these risks,
* the role of local government under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act.
Mr Brown also said in the letter the council had supported Local Government New Zealand's submission to the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill 2003, seeking legal clarification on those matters.
"Disappointingly, we feel such clarification was not achieved as a result of the Select Committee's recommendations," he wrote.
"In view of the above, our council respectfully considers that the present moratorium on the release of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) should be extended for a further period to allow these uncertainties to be addressed."
Mr Brown said the council was also looking to host an information-gathering forum on the GE issue with New Zealand Sustainability Council chairman Sir Peter Elworthy. No date has been set yet.
A GE Free Northland spokeswoman welcomed the WDC's decision. "This is a brave decision by the WDC. The majority of people do not want GMOs," the spokeswoman said.
"GMOs are a serious environmental issue and the council has recognised that. We think there should be a cautious approach to GMOs and good on the council for supporting that."
Source: Royal Society News, 2 October 2003
content of Mayor Craig Browns letter to Helen Clark
30 September 2003
Dear Prime Minister
There has been considerable concern in our community regarding the issue of the release of genetically modified organisms to the environment once the moratorium on such releases is lifted at the end of October 2003.
These concerns relate mainly to uncertainties over the economic benefits versus perceived risks to conventional and organic food producers; the uncertainties over whom should bear liability relating to these risks; and uncertainties over the role of local government under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act l996, the Resource Management Act l991 and the Local Government Act 2002.
The Whangarei District Council supported the submission to the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill 2003 by Local Government NZ which sought legislative clarification of these matters. Disappointingly, we feel (as do Local Government NZ) such clarification was not achieved as a result of the Select Committee's recommendations.
In view of the above, our council respectfully considers that the present moratorium on the release of genetically modified organisms should be extended for a further period to allow these uncertainties to be addressed.
I would welcome any opportunity to discuss these issues further with you.
His Worship the Mayor
WHANGAREI DISTRICT COUNCIL