High Court ruling gives nod to ARC’s cautious take on GMOs

11 June 2009:
Auckland Regional Council Media release

A High Court ruling overturning the government’s Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) decision to accept GMO applications from AgResearch is applauded by the Auckland Regional Council (ARC).

In 2007, the ARC adopted a precautionary position in relation to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in response to both concerns expressed by a significant number of communities and individuals, as well as some serious questions around local government liability should things go wrong.

The ARC is a member of the Northland Inter-Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options comprising the majority of the region's councils and those north of the region.

Cr Brent Morrissey, the ARC's representative on the working party says the High Court ruling sends a strong signal to the government that the body it set up to rigorously evaluate applications has not done its job.

"No lesser body than New Zealand's own High Court has made it clear that central government, through the ERMA, has been remiss in its acceptance of these GMO applications from AgResearch," says Cr Morrissey.

"We identified problems with central government's approach to GMOs a long time ago and have been watching things carefully since. Local government has an opportunity through the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act to regulate GMOs, and people can be very sure that we are protecting their best interests.

"Not only have we found holes in the law that leave New Zealanders wide open to genetic modification (GM) failures and leaks, we also know that 70 per cent of the public do not want genetically engineered animals.

"Lastly, before going full steam ahead with GMOs, the government needs to give full consideration to the range of big questions around GMs - from concerns over human safety to environmental issues.

"This is a classic example, if ever one was needed, of how local councils take the lead in representing the views of New Zealanders and can best protect their interests.

"In this case we believe that ERMA was bullied into accepting applications that should have easily been seen as woefully deficient. We are worried that ERMA is being used by pro-GMO interests and is not adequately considering the risk to New Zealand and New Zealanders from the use of GMOs," concludes Cr Morrissey.

The working party continues to investigate GM and will undertake a survey in the coming months to check that it is continuing to represent the public's views on GMOs.