Posts Tagged ‘Federated Farmers’

Soil and Health Assn claims a win for clean, green, GE-free New Zealand

There has been no announcement from Federated Farmers – at least, not that we can find.

But the Soil & Health Association says it is celebrating the decision by Federated Farmers to abandon its appeal against the right of councils to control the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their territories.

Federated Farmers filed its latest appeal earlier this year in the Court of Appeal, after its appeals to the Environment Court and High Court had been dismissed.

“We congratulate Federated Farmers on this pragmatic and sensible decision,” said Soil & Health Chair Graham Clarke.

“Both the High Court and Environment Court have ruled that regional councils have jurisdiction under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to regulate the use of GMOs through regional policy statements or plans. The recent RMA amendments further entrench the legal rights of councils to do so. Challenging these decisions would only have cost both us, the other parties involved and Federated Farmers themselves a lot of unnecessary time and money.”

Federated Farmers had argued the Environmental Protection Authority had sole responsibility for the regulation of GMOs under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO).

The Soil & Health Association says the federation’s decision to withdraw its appeal comes after recent amendments were made to the RMA, which confirmed the High Court ruling, leading Federated Farmers to believe that they “are likely to have materially reduced the prospects of the appeal being prosecuted successfully.”

The RMA changes, which passed in April this year via the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, included a controversial section which allows the Minister for the Environment to bypass parliament and make fundamental changes to the law if it is deemed that council plans duplicate or deal with the same subject matter as central Government laws.

This would have allowed the Minister to strip councils of their ability to create GE-free food producing zones.

The National Government at the time needed the Maori Party votes to pass the changes. But the Maori Party stated in December last year that it would not support changes to the RMA if they extended to allowing the Minister to overrule planning provisions controlling the use of GMOs.

Before the final reading of the Bill, an exemption was introduced under section 360D specifically for GE crops, effectively preventing the minister from permitting GMO crops in regions that had elected to remain GMO free or impose controls on the use of GMOs.

“We are so grateful to Maori Party for their determination to ensure that appropriate clauses in the RMA were included to protect regions from uncontrolled GMO use. Had they not stood firm against the changes, then we might not have had this decision from Federated Farmers to withdraw their appeal,” says Soil & Health National Council member Marion Thomson.

“The RMA amendment further confirms the ability of all local councils to determine GMO policies in their regions. Local communities can now have confidence that their values and concerns about the use of GMOs in their regions can be considered when drafting policy statements and plans.”

The economic sustainability of a wide range of agricultural export activities reliant on GMO-free status is also protected by this ruling. The global non-GMO food market is currently valued at US$250 billion, and trends show this is only going to grow. New Zealand producers benefit from access to this huge non-GMO market.

Soil & Health maintains it has found no economic, health or environmental case for GMOs. There are huge uncertainties around the adverse effects of GMOs on natural resources and ecosystems. The risks are large and consequences irreversible.

 

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Future farming fund investment will optimise primary sector, farm leaders say

Federated Farmers has welcomed the Government’s announcement that it will lift investment in the Sustainable Farming Fund from $7 million to $20 million.

Science spokesman Guy Wigley said working with the sector was a much more effective and useful approach than the tax and punish policies of some other parties.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced a cross-sector panel will oversee what will be renamed The Future Farming Fund, driving advances in farming technology and practices while further reducing farming’s environmental footprint.

Since its launch 17 years ago, the Sustainable Farming Fund and leveraged sector support has helped more than 1000 projects to lift the performance and sustainability of primary producers.

“This kind of research is what keeps us at the forefront of farming technology and ensures we remain among the most efficient producers of food on the planet,” Mr Guy said.

Federated Farmers is a lead organisation in projects such as the smart irrigation study in Canterbury. This is about quantifying the relationship between irrigation over time, the accumulation of soil carbon and changes in soil water holding capacity, with spin-offs for knowledge on groundwater recharge and nutrient leaching.

“The project is typical of environmental gains we can make when we improve our knowledge of technology and natural systems,” Mr Guy said.

Federated Farmers said the payback from the Sustainable Farming Fund for food production, export earnings and the environment from turbo-charging a fund for farming technology and practice will be many times the investment.

Federated Farmers says climate change actions should be practical, research-based

Federated Farmers supports the need for action to address climate change but says New Zealand’s responses should be practical, cost-effective and based on sound research.

Delegates representing 24 branches around the nation unanimously passed a 12-point Federated Farmers Policy on Climate Change in Wellington last week.

“The scientific consensus is that climate change is happening and that humanity, including agriculture, contributes,” the policy states.

The 13,000-member farmer group called for greater investment in research efforts to reduce biological agricultural emissions. It was worth accessing all the tools of modern biology, including biotechnology, but the measures should be cost-effective and not at the expense of farm productivity.

The Paris agreement also gives priority to food security and production, recognising the dual challenge of controlling global temperatures and feeding a growing population.

New Zealand farmers are world-leading carbon efficient protein producers so it makes no sense to include our agricultural biological emissions in the Emissions Trading Scheme until there are effective mitigation tools, and our international competitors are likewise included.

“We would otherwise simply be exporting production to other less efficient players, making the global environmental problem worse, not better,” Federated Farmers climate change portfolio leader Anders Crofoot says.

Federated Farmers sees co-benefits from managing the cross-over between climate change and other policy issues. For example, research into better understanding the nitrogen cycle could lead to reductions in nitrous oxide emissions as well as the nitrate leaching that affects waterways.

Soil erosion control plantings in hill country and riparian planting will sequester emissions, reduce sedimentation and phosphate in streams and rivers, and also achieve biodiversity objectives.

Farming’s need to remain viable requires an exploration of the implications of the threats and opportunities arising from a changing climate, Mr Crofoot says.

High Court rules in favour of regional councils having a role in curbing genetic modification

The High Court today has upheld the ruling that regional councils have the right to decide on the provisions, policies, and rules regarding the use of genetically modified organisms in their regions.

Judge Mary Peters ruled in favour of the Whangarei District Council, Northland Regional Council, Soil & Health Association, GE Free Northland and others, dismissing the appeal on all questions raised by the appellants, Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

Federated Farmers had appealed the Environment Court’s ruling in May 2015 that there is jurisdiction under the Resource Management Act for local councils to control the use of genetically modified organisms via regional policy instruments.

Federated Farmers argued that local government had no role in legislating about these organisms and contended the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act was the overarching legislation that governs how they are used in New Zealand.

Judge Mary Peters said in her decision the Environment Court “was conscious of the overlap between the RMA and HSNO but it was not persuaded that overlap required a conclusion that GMOs (and other new organisms) are required to be excluded from consideration in the promulgation of a regional policy statement or plan.”

In a press release welcoming the ruling, Soil & Health says much of the public is still under the impression New Zealand is a GE-free nation.

“The truth, however, is much more complex”: –

1. GE in the environment: The moratorium on GE organisms (such as crops and animals) in the environment was lifted in 2003, but since then no applications have been made for commercial release, although there are and have been GE field trials.

2. GE in food and animal feed: While we do not grow any GE crops or animals, there are many imported GE ingredients in our food. As of July 2012 Food Standards Australia New Zealand has approved 53 applications of 71 different GE food lines into our country, and an estimated 70% or more of processed non-organic foods for sale in New Zealand contain GE ingredients. In addition to human food, New Zealand imports large quantities of animal feed which is almost certainly genetically engineered.

Significant gaps exist in the law around GMOs in New Zealand, Soil & Health contends.

“There is a lack of   strict liability for GMO contamination resulting from the release of an approved GMO, and no mandatory requirement for the Environmental Protection Authority to take a precautionary approach to the outdoor use of GMOs.

“Under the HSNO Act there is no requirement for “polluter pays” to ensure companies causing unintended or unforeseen adverse impacts from GE crops of GE animals are held responsible. Due to these gaps in the law, a number of councils around New Zealand have been moving to protect their primary producers and communities by introducing precautionary or prohibitive policies.

The Northland Regional Council, after receiving hundreds of submission from Northland ratepayers, district councils, Northland Conservation Board, iwi authorities, hapū and community groups, decided  to adopt a precautionary approach around the outdoor release of GMOs in the proposed Northland Regional Policy Statement. It also identified GMOs as an issue of significance for Northland tangata whenua and an issue of concern for Northland Communities in their Regional Policy Statement.”

Federated Farmers lodged an appeal with the Environment Court last year to challenge the precautionary GMO provisions in the Northland Regional Policy statement.

Principal Environment Court Judge L. Newhook found that there is jurisdiction under the Resource Management Act for regional councils to make provision for the outdoor use of GMOs through regional policy statements and plans.

 

 

Feds call for review of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act

Federated Farmers is calling on the Government to urgently set up an expert panel to review the regulation of genetic modification (GM).

A press statement from the federation says this has been prompted by the recently published study carried out by US-based National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The study  examined the literature,  listened to speakers and heard comments from the public to determine the negative effects and benefits of commercial GM crops.

Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston says the report found there was no substantiated evidence of a difference in risk to human health between current commercial GE crops and conventional crops.

“There was no conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from GE crops. In fact, the report concludes that GM crops may even be better for the environment,” he says.

Looking to the future of GM crops, the report notes that new genetic technologies are blurring the line between conventional and GM crops, and that regulatory systems need to assess crop varieties based on their individual characteristics, not the way they are produced.

“This is the very message Federated Farmers and other science and industry organisations gave to the New Zealand government in October 2014, calling for a change in legislation from outdated technology based to risk based assessment to enable effective management and regulation of all GM technologies.

“Since then the rules around genetic modification have become even more distorted and anachronistic by classifying all techniques developed since 1998 as GM. Imagine if we applied similar logic to cell- phones or motor cars.”

Dr Rolleston says any review should develop the principles which would underpin new legislation taking into account credible scientific evidence of risks and benefits, coexistence and a fair balance or rights between those wanting to use GM products and those wanting to avoid them.

He says farmers should be given the choice to use safe and effective technologies if they are to continue to be world leaders in agriculture.

More than 1400 scientists say GM technology is a safe tool to help meet food supply demands

The genetic modification debate – rekindled in the High Court in a case brought by Federated Farmers this month – will be further fuelled by a letter published in the journal Science.

In the letter, six researchers from three institutions explain their recent petition in support of science-based criteria in guiding the safe and effective employment of genetic modification (GM) technology.

The petition,  the first organised by individual scientists in support of GM technology, yielded more than 1,400 signatures from plant science experts supporting the American Society of Plant Biologists’ (ASPB) position statement on genetically modified crops, which states that they are “an effective tool for advancing food security and reducing the negative environmental impacts of agriculture.” The ASPB is the world’s largest organization of plant biologists.

Although there is broad support in the scientific community for genetically modified crops, the petition organisers say  too much confusion about the issue is hindering effective deployment of these technologies.

“To meet our current and future food supply demands, without destroying our planet, we need every efficacious tool available,” they write. The letter’s authors are Carnegie’s Jose Dinneny; Noah Fahlgren, Rebecca Bart, and Daniel Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO; and Luis Herrera Estrella and Rubén Rellán Álvarez of the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity in Mexico.

The signatories of the petition represent a knowledgeable consortium of scientists, who have published more than 17,600 scientific papers on subjects including plant breeding, the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying plant growth and development, and plant responses to environmental stresses.

The petitioners’ goal is to demonstrate to the public that there is consensus within their scientific community about the safety and efficacy of using genetic modification technology in agriculture.

“Our petition gives voice to the individual scientist,” Chitwood explains.

Carnegie President Matthew Scott, one of the petitioners, says: “GM crops, deployed appropriately in light of scientific knowledge and societal and environmental imperatives, can improve food and health substantially without detriment to the environment. In fact there is considerable potential for preserving the environment through use of GMOs to reduce excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers.”

The document adds voices to the already existing position statements in support of genetically modified organisms from other scientific organizations including the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the World Health Organization.

“We hope that the consensus among plant scientists presented here is heard by policymakers, the business community, and, more importantly, the general public and initiates a new conversation on how best to implement GM tools to improve crops for sustainable agriculture. We invite advocates of the responsible use of such tools to read the ASPB position statement, sign our petition, and make your voice heard to encourage the use of the best-available scientific information in setting GMO policy and evaluating individual agricultural products,” says Dinneny.

The ASPB position statement and the petition can be found here. 

press statement from Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has provided the information published here about the petition.

In this country  Federated Farmers squared up against anti-GM advocated in the High Court this month over the right of communities to have a say in the use of genertically modified organisms.

The hearing was covered by Radio New Zealand.

The federations  challenged an Environment Court ruling from May 2015 that regional councils do have such a right under the Resource Management Act.

It argued that councils cannot use this legislation to control the use of GMOs

It said central government passed the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act expressly for that purpose, and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is the sole regulator of GMOs.

The farmers argued that Parliament cannot have intended for local councils to duplicate that job, or thwart the authority of the EPA.

In the Environment Court, Judge Newhook had found councils did have a role to play in the use of GMOs.

He found all resource use was governed by the Resource Management Act unless specifically exempted and, since regional councils were charged with the sustainable management of resources, they must therefore be able to consider the social, economic and ecological effects of genetic modification.

GE Free Northland spokesperson Zelka Grammer told Radio New Zealand councils up and down the country have been responding to community pressure to limit or ban GMOs since the Environment Court ruling was made.

“Hastings District Council, for example, since Judge Newhook’s decision in our favour, they’ve proceeded with their district plan and they have banned everything,” she said.

“They have banned any outdoor GE experiments; any releases for a period of 10 years. And there was very strong support in that district for that protection.”

In Northland, farmer and former regional councillor Ian Walker said local councils lacked the scientific smarts to make those sorts of decisions.

Mr Walker who fought to keep genetic engineering off the Northland council’s agenda said the anti-GE lobby was holding back production and hurting the economy.

“None of our councillors has a science background,” he said.

“The EPA is the agency that does have the scientific knowledge to control GMO releases, and it should not be able to be undermined by councils,” he says.

“There are GM grass strains being trialled overseas at the moment that could help us weather climate change,” Mr Walker said.

“They would reduce the impact on the environment and stand up to drought and

In Hawke’s Bay a group of local farming stalwarts is supporting the Hastings District Council as it prepares to fight for the district to stay GMO free.

Later this year the council will head to the Environment Court to defend its genetically modified organism free policy.

 

Federated Farmers challenge GE ruling in the High Court

Federated Farmers is challenging an Environment Court ruling in May last year that the Resource Management Act entitles regional councils to give expression to community attitudes and control the use of genetically modified organisms, especially crops.

The feds are arguing that councils cannot use the RMA to control the use of GMOs.

They say central government passed the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act expressly for that purpose and the Environmental Protection Authority is the sole regulator of GMOs.

The farmers argue that Parliament cannot have intended local councils to duplicate that job, or thwart the authority of the EPA.

Their appeal is being heard in the High Court at Whangarei, Radio New Zealand reported.

The feds hope to overturn a decision by the Environment Court’s Judge Newhook, who found that councils did have a role to play in the use of GMOs.

He found all resource use was governed by the RMA unless specifically exempted and, since regional councils were charged with the sustainable management of resources, they must therefore be able to consider the social, economic and ecological effects of genetic modification.

GE Free Northland spokesperson Zelka Grammer said, since that decision, councils up and down the country have been responding to community pressure to limit or ban GMOs.

“Hastings District Council, for example, since Judge Newhook’s decision in our favour, they’ve proceeded with their district plan and they have banned everything,” she said.

“They have banned any outdoor GE experiments; any releases for a period of 10 years. And there was very strong support in that district for that protection.”

Northland farmer and former regional councillor Ian Walker said local councils lacked the scientific smarts to make those sorts of decisions.

Mr Walker fought to keep genetic engineering off the Northland council’s agenda.

He said the anti-GE lobby was holding back production and hurting the economy.

“None of our councillors has a science background,” he said.

“The EPA is the agency that does have the scientific knowledge to control GMO releases, and it should not be able to be undermined by councils,” he says.

“There are GM grass strains being trialled overseas at the moment that could help us weather climate change,” Mr Walker said.

“They would reduce the impact on the environment and stand up to drought and flood. But they’re effectively banned in this country and we may never get them.”

The Soil and Health Association, Whangarei District Council, the Northland Regional Council and GE-Free Northland are all represented at the appeal hearing.

Both councils are taking a precautionary approach to GMOs in their policy statements, but the Soil and Health Association is funding the court case.

The association’s co-chair, Marion Thomson, said donations had poured in from around the country – many of them from organic growers worried that GMO crops could ruin their livelihoods

Local communities should be able to control where GMO crops could be grown, she said.

“There is no tolerance for GMOs in an organic production… If someone’s growing GMO crops next to an organic property and it’s contaminated, they lose their organic certification. So it’s pretty serious, for a business.”

Mana whenua in the north are also taking a close interest in the appeal.

Dr Benjamin Pittman, of Ngāti Hau, said GMOs presented a unique problem for Māori.

He said plants and animals were seen as having their own whakapapa, or genetic lineage, and messing with that went against tikanga, the sense of what was right and good.

“We know that plants evolve and change over time through natural causes,” he said.

“The problem is this human intervention. At the very least, there needs to be discussion about it and not just a blanket decision, like this is how things are going to happen.”

The appeal hearing was expected to conclude this morning with submissions from Soil and Health Association lawyer Dr Royden Somerville QC.