Cheers for the WDC- saying NO to GE

Cheers for the WDC- saying NO to GE

           Whangarei councillors have unanimously, and historically, rejected the outdoor use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Whangarei District.  WDC is asking other Northland councils to join in a collaborative plan change, to ban all GMOs in our region (a wise move considering that at any moment, a big multinational like Monsanto or Crown Research Institutes can apply for GE experiments or releases on our patch, without being liable for harm caused).

         After lobbying central government for over 7 years to fix the flaws and gaps in the national minimal legislation that covers GE, local councils have finally had enough and are saying No to GE.

Deformed GE salmon, blends of transgenic animals (including human genes) , GE trees and GE crops that contain insecticide in every cell and gene are the types of experiments  Council wants to ban locally to protect our biosecurity, farmers, rural communities and the public health.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) approved experiments with GM cattle resulting in high mortality rates and gross deformities.  Six-month-old calves who appeared “normal” unexpectedly died when their internal organs ruptured (the ovaries grew to the size of tennis balls rather than the usual thumbnail-size.). Such unsavory incidents, using your taxpayer dollars, has reignited debate over the ethics of such practices.

AgResearch had four applications lodged with ERMA for a wide-ranging conditional release of transgenic animals to undisclosed North Island locations which were fortunately withdrawn after a High Court decision. The ethical, animal welfare and biosecurity issues involved with such costly GE animal experiments are considerable and for what benefit?

Whangarei Mayor Morris Cutforth said recently, “Our District is strong in farming and tourism, two areas that have the potential to suffer greatly from a GMO trial gone wrong. Reputations take years to build up and Whangarei is well regarded as a place of clean, green beauty with a healthy pastoral sector. With the immediacy of today's traditional and social media networks, a reputation can be altered forever in a few seconds," so why should we risk our existing and valuable GE free status? 

There is also a glaring lack of strict liability for any damage resulting from such experiments.

Currently, New Zealand GMO experimenters are not liable for damage resulting from an ERMA approved activity or required to prove ability to cover damage or post bonds. Such costs unacceptably lie with affected neighboring land users and local governments. We need to protect ourselves from such GE cowboys.

Authoritative  information from overseas documenting adverse impacts of GMOs on ecosystems like waterways and on conventional and organic farmers should heighten our resolve to say ‘No’ to GMOs.

Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall and colleagues of the Cary Institute have reported that streams throughout the Midwestern Corn Belt are receiving insecticidal proteins originating from adjacent GM crops when residual corn material is washed away.

Many published reports show GE crops impacting negatively on the environment and the health of field workers and causing illness and death like in animals traditionally grazing on GM cotton stubble.

This indicates a need for the Northland Regional Council (NRC) to actively support regional local governments working to ban GMOs.  The NRC has a strong precautionary policy in its 10 Year Community Plan and proactively proposed a precautionary GMO provision in the NRC Regional Policy Statement. This needs to be retained and strengthened.

In rejecting hazardous new GMO technologies the Whangarei District Council (WDC) is continuing a proud tradition consistent with its widely accepted nuclear free policy and has set an inspirational example to neighboring councils.

Thanks to the foresight of Kiwis who worked hard, council by council and community board by community board, to create a nuclear free nation we don't have to contend with crippled nuclear reactors exuding deadly radiation on top of earthquake damage such as in Christchurch.

There are good reasons why this country is nuclear free and in our view central government in NZ would do well to establish a similar policy for GMOs.

But even if central government has failed to act, local governments can act on their duty of care to their constituents and the environment and prohibit GMO activities that are harmful or potentially harmful.   

There are so many other appropriate and sustainable methods for energy and food production in this country rather than nuclear and GMOs.

Cheers for the WDC, leading the way, for the benefit of the Northland community, farming families and future generations.