Big 'no' for GM food

letters to editor:

******p. 6, Friday, 15th January 2010 RURAL ADVOCATE

"Big 'no' for GM food"

by Zelka Grammer, spokesperson

GE Free Northland

The results of a Colmar Brunton poll, commissioned by local authorities from Auckland north to Cape Reinga because of growing concerns of about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), was released just before Christmas.

The poll was remarkably consistent, showing significant opposition to GMO land use from both rural and urban dwellers.

People have had enough of incompetent central government agencies such as the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), ongoing errors by Crown Research Institutes like Crop & Food Research- whose dodgy genetically engineered (GE) brassica experiment was shut down last year after local farmers found clear breaches of the rules of approval- and the lack of strict liability for GE experiments.

Despite years of lobbying by Local Government NZ, local authorities and organisations like Rural Women NZ, central government shows no inclination to fix the flaws and gaps in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act l996.

Most people across the Auckland and Northland region want companies using GMO’s to be held strictly liable for damage, and in some areas, most want a ban.


Around two thirds of those polled want regulation to make users of GMOs strictly liable for any harm caused, with support ranging from 63-72 per cent for individual councils.

Many (tired of waiting for central government to get its act together) want councils to have the right to ban GM plants and animals.

The poll also found clear support from the Northland and Auckland communities for establishing a Regional Exclusion Zone for GMOs, meaning only producing food that is GM free.

New Zealand would do well to emulate European Union nations who are banning GMO land use or putting in place strict liability legislation to ensure those who wish to experiment with GMOs are fully responsible for any adverse impacts to other primary producers, the environment, the economy and/or the public health.

Ireland, a small agricultural nation, like NZ, with a reputation for high quality, "clean and green" pure food) has positioned itself to get a premium for agricultural products by banning GMO land use.

The Government policy to keep Ireland off-limits to GM crops and to introduce a voluntary GM-free food label provides an untapped opportunity for Ireland's farm, food and tourist industries.

It will become the fourth EU member state (after Austria, Germany and France) to provide a Government-backed voluntary GM-free label for food and livestock produced with certified Non-GMO ingredients, including beef, dairy, lamb, pork, poultry, farmed fish, cereals, fruit and vegetables.

The NZ government needs to listen to the community.

It is time for a strategy to protect and manage the New Zealand "100% Pure" brand.

If we are to succeed as a country which exports food to the most discerning in the world, sustainable non-GE primary production must be protected from transgenic contamination.

I applaud the commitment of local government to address the critical GE issue, as central government continues to ignore the concerns of many eminent scientists, territorial authorities and our key markets, as well as those of the majority of New Zealanders.

It is critical that the interests of local government are protected and the wishes of their communities are addressed.

Genetic engineering and the lack of strict liability has galvanised Northlanders, with the issue raising one of the most serious biosecurity risks to the region.

Past polls have shown that the majority of New Zealanders don't want to eat GE food and that they don't want GMOs released into their backyard.

Because of their geographical locations, Northland and Auckland regions are regarded as a prime candidate for REGIONAL EXCLUSION ZONE designation.