Community urges Kaipara to remain GE-free


GE Free Northland 
4 September 2023
Media release

"Community urges Kaipara to remain GE-free"

GE-Free Northland was among a number of original submitters urging the Kaipara District Council last week to continue precautionary and prohibitive rules and policies regarding outdoor GE/ GMO experiments, field trials and releases.

“Kaipara District’s valuable agricultural, horticultural, apiculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors – and the wider ‘Northland, naturally’ brand – must be protected from the risks of GMOs,” said Zelka Grammer, chairperson, GE-Free Northland.
“Our valuable enterprises, access to key markets and premiums would be put at risk if genetically modified organisms were 
permitted in the outdoors in Kaipara,” she said.

“Some of the world’s most celebrated food regions—Tuscany, Provence, Bordeaux—are official GM-free zones. That’s the club we want to be part of, and Northland and Auckland regions are well placed geographically to achieve this distinction.”

There is strong community support for a precautionary, collaborative and regional approach to GMOs, in alignment with all other Northland and Auckland councils.  GE Free Northland (GE Free Tai Tokerau) presented to the Kaipara District 
Council in Mangawhai, with support in the public gallery from Mangawhai, Kaiwaka, Maungaturoto, and Dargaville residents.

Both GE Free Northland and Kaipara residents praised KDC for placing precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions, policies, and rules in last year’s KDC exposure draft for public consultation.

GE Free Northland provided an update to KDC on the risks of outdoor GE/GMO experiments or field trials, with a particular focus on the risky and controversial  gene editing technique CRISPR, which has been shown to be unpredictable and
imprecise, causing unintended and unwanted effects.*

KDC staff noted that three quarters of submittors strongly supported the precautionary GE/GMO provisions proposed by the council during the non-statutory process last year.**  Submitters included industry organisations, regional
growers, community groups, organisations like GE Free Kaipara, private individuals, and groups representing Māori. 

They referenced issues including biosecurity, biodiversity, the growing organics industry,*** taonga species, and the current lack of accountability (inadequate liability provisions) under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

Many submitters highlighted the importance of KDC aligning with other councils in the region (Whangārei and Far North District Councils and Northland Regional Council) who have taken action to protect their ratepayers and the region from the risks of GMOs.

They conveyed the importance of KDC giving effect to the Northland operative Regional Policy Statement and consistency with the Northland operative Regional Plan (which only protects the Coastal Marine Area in Northland).

“We thank KDC for taking action in a collaborative and fiscally responsible manner to foster sustainable and integrated management,  
protection of our biosecurity and wider environment, as well as our existing valuable GM-free status, non-GM farmers and primary producers, food sovereignty, and cultural values," said Ms. Grammer.

“We stand with Kaipara farmers and other ratepayers in urging KDC to ensure that the precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO 
provisions, policies and rules are contained in the KDC draft District Plan during the statutory process.”

Action by all the Northland and Auckland councils (as well as councils in Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty) is necessary to protect 
their biosecurity, environment, as well as farmers and other ratepayers from any outdoor use of GE/GMOs given the significant deficiencies in the national legislation (Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act) as identified by Local Government NZ, many councils, primary producers, iwi and hapū.
Deficiencies in HSNO including inadequate liability provisions and no mandatory requirement for the EPA to take a precautionary approach to outdoor GE/GMO applications.


Zelka Linda Grammer
Chairperson, GE-Free Northland (in food & environment)
Please text or email to arrange a suitable time 

or call:

Martin Robinson (GE Free Northland committee member and Northland Regional councillor)
09 407 8650
Mob 022 136 9619

Martina Tschirky
for GE Free Kaipara
       09 431 5161
Mob 027 449 0464


*  “Gene editing myths and reality – a guide through the smokescreen”

One example of unintended/ unforseen off-target effects of gene editing...
MIT Technology Review 19 August 2019

"Gene edited cattle have a major screwup in their DNA"
"Bid for barnyard revolution is set back after FDA regulators find celebrity "hornless" bovines contaminated by bacterial genes"

** Genetically Modified Organisms- 47 submissions
See the KDC summary documents:

***The NZ organic standards do not allow any use of GE/GMOs, nor is there a threshold for GE/GMO contamination (including
adventitious presence"

Te Waka Kai Ora certified (Hua Parakore) Maori organic also prohibits the
use of any GE/GMOs

For information on the work of the Northland/Auckland "Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Management Options"
(Kaipara District Council was a formative member of the council, back in 2003)

The Inter-Council working party on Genetically Modified Organisms
(GMO) Risk Evaluation and Management Options was established to
respond to community concerns in the Northland region about

The Far North, Whangārei, and Kaipara District Councils,
Auckland Council and Northland Regional Council are represented
on the working party.

Risk Evaluation and Management Options

"Three major reports commissioned by the working party have
identified a range of risks involved with the trialling and release of
GMOs. They also include approaches to managing those risks. 
GMO Reports [link to documents]

Environmental risks
 GMOs becoming invasive and affecting other species including
native flora and fauna
 the development of herbicide or pesticide resistance creating
"super-weeds" or "super-pests"
 long term effects on ecosystem functioning.

Socio-cultural risks
 effects on Maori cultural beliefs of whakapapa, mauri, tikanga
 ethical concerns about mixing genes from different species
including human genes
 concerns about the long term safety of genetically engineered food. 

Economic risks
 loss of income through contamination (or perceived contamination)
of non-GMO food products
 negative effects on marketing and branding opportunities such as
"clean and green" or "Northland, naturally"
 costs associated with environmental damage such as clean-up
costs for invasive weeds or pests.

Associated with these risks are limited liability provisions under the
Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996."
(excerpt from the ICWP on GMOs page)