Soil & Health is pleased that Federated Farmers has dropped legal action around GMOs

The Soil & Health Association says it welcomes Federated Farmers’ decision to drop legal challenges to several local council resource management plans controlling their outdoor use.

Soil & Health reminds us the farmers’ organisation has run a number of cases before the courts challenging the rights of communities in Auckland, the Far North and Whangarei to manage the outdoor use of GMOs within their own districts and regions.

The courts continued to find that territorial authorities have the right under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to set their own policies and rules controlling GMO use, a finding that Federated Farmers repeatedly challenged.

Marion Thomson, Soil & Health National Council Member, congratulated the farm organisation

” … for seeing the sense in dropping further litigation, allowing Councils to get on with making GMO policies and plans that reflect the needs of regions and communities”.

Soil & Health has held strong concerns about the potential impact of GMO land use on regions dependent on an agricultural export sector increasingly reliant on non-GMO requirements of key trading partners.

“This affects both the traditional agricultural sector and New Zealand’s growing organic sector,” Ms Thomson said.

The New Zealand environment and our local communities should not be guinea pigs for GMO land use, she said.

Auckland Council, Far North District Council and Whangarei District Council all prohibit the general outdoor release of GMOs and made field trials a discretionary activity with performance standards in place, whilst Northland Regional Council adopted a precautionary approach in its regional policy statement.

Soil & Health, representing organic and GE-free farmers, primary producers, home gardeners and consumers across New Zealand, has long campaigned against Federated Farmers in each court challenge brought by the feds.

On its website, Federated Farmers sets out their policy stance on GMOs (HERE):

“Federated Farmers’ policy on GMOs is designed to be neutral, recognising that members have a diversity of opinions on the subject.

“Federated Farmers does not advocate unrestricted use of GMOs, especially in relation to allowing foreign DNA into organisms. At the same time, we want to avoid a moratorium on new biotechnologies.

“Fundamentally, the Federation’s policy asserts farmers’ right to use technologies that are approved as safe. We support responsible, flexible farming systems which can respond to changing consumer preferences, market dynamics and advances in technology. We also want to ensure that New Zealand farmers can hold their own with our international competitors, in terms of on-farm productivity.”



Soil and Health seeks community support for a GE-free New Plymouth

The Soil & Health Association is encouraging the New Plymouth District Council to adopt precautionary provisions in the New Plymouth District Plan for any genetically engineered (genetically modified) organisms that may be trialled or used commercially.

The Proposed Draft New Plymouth District Plan, which is open for public feedback, makes no mention of GMOs.

Soil & Health is calling on New Plymouth district residents to make submissions by 5pm Friday 16 March.

“We want to ensure that the Council adequately protects the district from the significant adverse effects posed by GMO use by including strong precautionary or prohibitive GMO policies and rules into its District Plan,” says Soil & Health National Council member Marion Thomson.

“We call on the New Plymouth District Council to follow the lead of the other councils around New Zealand that have already adopted precautionary provisions and banned the outdoor release of GMOs via their local policy statements and plans.”

Auckland Council, Far North District Council and Whangarei District Council have prohibited the outdoor release of GMOs and made field trials a discretionary activity with performance standards regarding liability and the posting of bonds.

Ms Thomson claims GMOs threaten the economic sustainability of a wide range of agricultural activities that benefit from having GE-free status, including dairy, honey, forestry and horticulture.

“No matter how carefully conditions are crafted, there inevitably remains a risk that they may be breached by poor management, human error, natural events such as severe storms or even sabotage,” says Ms Thomson.

Current laws are inadequate to properly protect communities from the potential adverse effects of GE, she said, citing the lack of provision under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act for financial liability for GMO contamination resulting from the release of an approved GMO. This means those people or companies responsible for causing harm may not be held liable.

But under the Resource Management Act, requirements for bonds for remediation and to cover the costs of contamination can be included in district plans if local councils choose to implement them.

Submissions can be made to by 5pm Friday 16 March.

Soil & Health’s submission can be viewed HERE. 

Source: Soil and Health Association.