"Councils take action after poll reveals GE concern"                                                              21 December 2009 NORTHERN ADVOCATE by Mike Barrington

Whangarei and Kaipara District councils have begun moves to tighten controls on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Both last week adopted recommendations from the Inter-council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options, which commissioned a Colmar Brunton poll that showed most Northlanders were concerned about the risks associated with genetically modified plants and animals.

Other working party members - the Far North and Rodney district councils, the Waitakere City Council and the Auckland Regional Council - are also likely to endorse the recommendations after considering the poll results next month.

The Northland Regional Council (NRC), which did not contribute to the $60,000 spent on the poll, is also expected to join the working party call for pressure to be applied on the Government to remedy national GMO regulations seen as "deficient", particularly in regard to liability.

NRC environment committee chairman Craig Brown - who was mayor of the Whangarei District Council when it initiated the formation of the working party in 2004 - told the Northern Advocate he had been outnumbered when the NRC weakened its precautionary approach to GMOs in its last long-term plan.

Mr Brown said he believed New Zealand legislation covering GMOs was faulty and it was "just a matter of time before there will be an environmental calamity".

He intended asking the working party convenor, WDC official Kerry Grundy, to address a meeting at the NRC headquarters next month in a bid to draw the council closer to the way the community wanted local authorities to deal with GMO risks.

Dr Grundy said yesterday the working party would meet after all councils had adopted its recommendations and decide what political lobbying should take place.

He said more than half of the countries in Europe had declared themselves GE-free.