Community support for a GE-free Northland

Community support for a GE-free Northland


22 March 2018 Media release: GE Free Northland

GE Free Northland is encouraging the Northland Regional Council to place precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions in the new Regional Plan for Northand, to support local District Councils and Auckland Council in preventing any genetically engineered (genetically modified) organisms being trialled out of doors or used commercially.

The Proposed new Regional Plan for Northland currently fails to regulate or ban the outdoor use of GMOs, only mentioning concerns about outdoor use of GMOs in the Tangata whenua Policy section (D.1.1) and s32 analysis. There were 86 original submissions urging the NRC to control or ban outdoor use of GE/GMOs. The Proposed Regional Plan is now open for further submissions, and GE Free Northland is calling on Northland ratepayers and residents to make supportive submissions on the GMO issue by Monday 26 March at 3pm.

“We  need to ensure that Northland Regional Council adequately protects the region from the adverse impacts outdoor use of GMOs, including transgenic pollution, damage to existing GM free primary producers’ valuable enterprises, loss of income, and creation of invasive new ‘super weeds’.  The NRC must include strong precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions, policies, and objectives in the new Regional Plan for Northland,” says Martin Robinson, spokesmanGE Free Northland. 


We call on the Northland Regional 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 all prohibited the outdoor release of GMOs and made field trials a discretionary activity with performance standards regarding liability and the posting of bonds, the new Regional Plan for Northland needs to strongly support these excellent GMO plan changes," says Robinson.

GMOs threaten the economic sustainability of a wide range of agricultural and forestry activities that benefit from having GE-free status. This includes conventional, IPM and organic primary producers in the Northland region, including meat, dairy, honey, forestry, horticulture, and other producers.  Global certification bodies for truly sustainable forestry (Forest Stewardship Council and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) prohibit the use of GE trees in certified forests, due to their commitment to the precautionary principle, the serious ecological risks, and market aversion to GE trees.

“Our key markets will not accept even trace contamination of GE. Northland primary producers access to key markets and premiums and their valuable enterprises must be protected," said Zelka Grammer, chairperson GE Free Northland.

“New Zealand has already seen several GE field trials breach their conditions of approval.  Despite good intentions and seemingly adequate containment conditions for approved outdoor GE activities, there remains a risk that they may be breached by poor management, human error, and extreme weather events. Vectors for GE contamination include soils, wind, water, insects, pollen, machinery, tools, clothing, and footwear." said Ms. Grammer.


"There have been a number of instances where NZ Crown Research Institutes (including Scion, AgResearch, and Plant and Food Research*) have been in breach of the original conditions of approval by ERMA/EPA," she said.

Current laws are inadequate to properly protect communities from the potential adverse effects of GE. There are inadequate liability provisions under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act for unintended or unforseen adverse impacts of EPA approved outdoor GE applications. There is also no mandatory requirement for the EPA to take a precautionary approach to outdoor GE applications. 

GMOs are living, self-replicating organisms. Once GMOs have been allowed into the environment (either in outdoor GE field trials or releases), they would be very difficult if not impossible to eradicate. Our valuable "Northland, naturally" brand and existing GE-free status must be protected, and the market advantages of that status retained.

Fortunately, under the RMA, regional councils can place strong precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions, policies, and objectives in Regional Plans.  The Northland :Regional Policy Statement" already contains strong precautionary GMO provisions (including  policy 6.1.2 and method 6.1.5**) and the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017*** specifically recognises the right of local councils to create enforceable GE Free Zones.

Further submissions can be made to:  

by Monday 26 March 2018, 3 pm.


Media contact:

Martin Robinson, spokesperson GE Free Northland


09 406 8650

mobile: 022 136 9619

or contact Zelka Linda Grammer


*for example, Plant and Food Research's 2009 breaches 

"GE brassica trial uprooted" 


 Policy 6.1.2 of the Northland "Regional Policy Statement" (RPS) clearly states that councils must "adopt a precautionary approach towards the effects of climate change and introducing genetically modified (plant) organisms to the environment where they are scientifically uncertain, unknown or little understood, but potentially significant."  


This is confirmed by method 6.1.5 in the Northland RPS which states that "The regional and district councils should apply 6.1.2 when reviewing their plans or considering options for plan changes and assessing resource consent applications."