1.Oz: GE find sparks call to destroy tainted crops
2.NZ: Regional Council must stand firm on GMOs
1.GE find sparks call to destroy tainted crops
The Mercury, 15 nov 05
THE Tasmanian Greens have called for the complete destruction of canola crops found to contain genetically engineered material after preliminary tests showed traces of GE material in the Grace canola line.
Yesterday, the Department of Primary Industries' general manager of biosecurity and product integrity, Alex Schaap, said preliminary results from departmental trials on Grace canola had revealed signs of herbicide resistance, an indicator the seed contained genetically engineered material.
He said the level of genetically engineered material would not be determined until final laboratory testing but, given interstate results, it could be reasonably expected there would be evidence of GE material.
Greens primary industries spokesman Kim Booth said all contaminated canola crops should be destroyed and farmers compensated to protect the integrity and value of Tasmania's clean green and GE-free brand.
He said the GE genie was now out of the bottle.
"Urgent action is needed to not only get it back in but also to send a strong signal to international markets that Tasmania's GE-free status will not be comprised," he said.
A spokesman for Primary Industries Minister Steve Kons, Tony Scott, said the Government remained committed to a zero-tolerance policy.
"In the late 1990s GE trial crops were being legally grown at 50 sites in Tasmania.
"Those sites are all still being monitored and any GE canola found is killed."
2.Regional Council must stand firm on GMOs
(GUEST COLUMN by Z Grammer, Chairperson, GE FREE NORTHLAND in food & environment and Coordinator, Maungakaramea Landcare Group)
NORTHERN ADVOCATE (Northland, NZ),11 November 2005
North of Auckland city lies a unique region. The Northland peninsula is 260 kilometres long, rich in biodiversity, and is lined on each side by stunning coastline and harbours. Partly owing to its congenial subtropical climate, Northland is renowned for its excellent quality primary produce, forestry and tourism. Kiwis and overseas travellers alike, seeking unspoiled beauty without the hype of overdeveloped destinations like Queenstown, are drawn to Northland’s unique natural treasures and culture.
However, existing environmental problems (like feral pests, invasive exotic plants, and the poor quality of some lowland streams, rivers and coastal inlets) challenge Northland authorities and residents. A lack of preventative action by both councils and ratepayers in the past, now means a concerted effort and more stringent rules are required to protect the environment which underpins primary production and tourism industries in the region.
The waves of invasive new organisms that hit New Zealand’s shores with settlement changed its natural environment forever. Possums, rats, goats and stoats- all have left their mark on the land. Along with imported weeds, they’re a constant reminder of the unintended consequences that new organisms can bring.
GM field trials and the commercial release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) carries a series of risks for New Zealanders and their land. Local Government NZ shares the concerns of many territorial and unitary authorities about serious unresolved GM issues like liability, ecological impacts, adverse impacts on primary producers and on key markets.
Despite the concerns of the majority of New Zealanders and many eminent scientists, the Labour led government recently lifted the moratorium on commercial release of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Central government has also failed to date to provide a strict liability regime to protect existing status quo primary producers. In other countries like Germany those involved in GM experiments or releases who cause damage are forced to pay for losses. The law includes provisions making farmers using GM plants legally responsible for the contamination of non-GM crops that they cause and obliging them to enter all land used for GM cultivation in a public register. As it stands now in NZ, existing businesses (in particular farmers) stand to lose if someone else contaminates their crop.
Under existing legislation in NZ, the release of GMOs to the environment may create financial exposure for local government, including the Northland peninsula councils, and the costs involved could be substantial.
The economic benefits to the district from the commercial release of GMOs are at this stage not apparent, whilst the hazards could be very high.
There is considerable uncertainty over the role of local authorities under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996, the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA).
So what are local authorities doing to address these risks?
Sustaining our beautiful region and its natural resources for future generations takes planning and hard work, and the Northland Peninsula territorial authorities are actively addressing the risks of GE to our biosecurity, unique biodiversity, primary producers and heritage seeds. Waitakere City Council, Rodney, Kaipara, Whangarei and Far North District Councils and Northland Regional Council have formed the inter-council "Working Party on GMOs" with a view to investigate the risks arising from GMO land use to Northland peninsula and the options available to local government to address those risks.
Waitakere, the "Eco City" was first to declare itself a Symbolic GE FREE Zone in response to the threat of GE field trials or releases. Councils like the WDC, KDC and NRC have adopted a strong precautionary approach in their Long Term Council Community Plans (in response to numerous submissions from ratepayers). The FNDC Annual Plan 2005/2006 includes the following statement as a result of the large number of anti-GMO submissions made: "FNDC remains committed to exploring the options for controlling GE/GMOs at a local level in collaboration with the local authorities north of Auckland."
An initial GE Report and legal opinion ("Community Management of GMOs- Issues, Options and Partnership with Government") was commissioned in 2004 to determine whether local authorities have jurisdiction under the RMA and/or Local Government Act to regulate GMO land use locally, with all local authorities and Local Government NZ providing funds.
Once it was determined that local authorities do have jurisdiction to manage land uses involving GMOs in the environment under the RMA and LGA over and above national regulation under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, the Northland territorial authorities commissioned further work- the "Risks Evaluation & Options Report" on GMOs.
"The focus of the study was to examine in greater depth the risks to local government and their communities in Northland posed by GMO releases to the environment. In brief, the report was to identify specific sources of risk for local government, including environmental risks from releasing GMOs into the environment such as horizontal gene transfer, soil contamination, contamination of indigenous flora and fauna, interference with ecological processes and life supporting functions of ecosystems; economic risks to existing businesses through contamination by GMOs and loss of markets due to such contamination (or perception of) and loss of clean green image generally; ethical-cultural risks to Maori and other groups/individuals who have ethical-cultural objections to genetic engineering; and financial risks in the form of liability and compensation for damage caused by GMOs in the environment such as GM contamination of non-GM produce, GM soil contamination, environmental damage generally including possible unforeseen ‘catastrophic’ damage."*
Both widespread community concern and a growing concern about central government agencies ability and/or commitment to protect our existing GM free status that has led to the joint study sponsored by the five local authorities. Sadly, the NRC failed to make a financial contribution to this important work, or commission as promised an independent legal opinion on the role of regional authorities regarding GMO land use. This is despite the strong NRC official GE policy which clearly states: "council has decided to adopt a precautionary approach. This means that there should be no further development and field testing of transgenic organisms envisaged for agriculture, horticulture and forestry in Northland, nor any commercial release, until the risk potential has been adequately identified and evaluated and a strict liability regime put in place."
Now is the time for the NRC to address the genuine risks of GMOs, put in place a truly strict liability regime and support the innovative work of local territorial authorities on GMOs.
GE FREE NORTHLAND encourages local government to act on the concerns of ratepayers and work to ensure the regions economy and environment is protected by making appropriate changes to the District Plan and Long Term Council Community Plan.
There are many benefits to maintaining our existing GM free status. NZ’s "clean green" brand and reputation for providing safe, high quality food is a most important asset to retain. Ideally, a shared approach to prohibiting GM activities will be taken by local government on a regional level.
Northland peninsula is ideally placed geographically to achieve this distinction (which would minimise the economic, environmental, public health and liability exposures from GM experiments and releases) while protecting its "Northland Naturally" brand and uniqueness.
*UPDATE ON GE ISSUE: WHANGAREI DISTRICT COUNCIL May 2005