Previously known as Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics PSRGNZ - Charitable Trust
As required under the new 2005 Charities Act, PSGR has reregistered as a charitable trust.

8 July 2014

To all New Zealand Councils                                 cc Council office holders, Local and Community Board Members

While we appreciate the following information may be received too late to affect this year's consideration of Council Plans, it validates our submission material to all New Zealand Councils.  We ask that councillors and council officers take it on board for current and future considerations of Plans to manage any potential release of transgenic (genetically engineered / modified) organisms in your region.  It is important councils are able to consider issues of concern at the local level that extends beyond the timeframes of central government authorities like the Environmental Protection Authority.  Under the HSNO Act, the EPA ceases to have responsibility or jurisdiction over an approved release of a transgenic organism once that new organism ceases to be considered as such.

 

We ask you to be aware of the following in meeting your duty of care to your ratepayers and residents.  Nation-wide polls have clearly shown New Zealanders want a more precautionary approach than central government currently requires for the release into the environment of transgenic organisms.

In late June, Far North District Council and Whangarei District Council reportedly voted unanimously to jointly notify their Plan change to ban the release into the environment in their region of all transgenic organisms.[i]  They will also make any Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) approved outdoor experiments or field trials employing genetic engineering / modification technology a discretionary activity that will be subject to additional local requirements that the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act does not require.

This move is in keeping with the proposed collaborative Plan change with Auckland Council, which has already begun the process through the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

The member councils of the Northland Auckland 'Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Management Options' are acting in a cost effective manner to introduce the Plan change and defend any legal challenge.  The northern councils have also acted in keeping with the wishes of the majority of Northland and Auckland residents and ratepayers, to create additional local protection against the risks of outdoor use of such novel organisms.

The work undertaken by local Councils on behalf of farmers and other ratepayers and residents in their region is necessary given shortcomings in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.  These include a lack of strict liability under the HSNO Act and no mandatory requirement for the EPA to take a precautionary approach to outdoor transgenic organisms’ experiments and releases. 

Councils in Northland, Auckland, the Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay have responded similarly to the on-going concerns of their constituents about outdoor use of this technology, by investigating the risks posed and how they can best minimise those risks, including risks to local economies, farming activities, the environment and, potentially, human health.  These risks include long-term impacts that not even commercial insurers are willing to cover.

In addition to the potential risks of transgenic crops and/or outdoor experiments, Councils in the Bay of Plenty and Canterbury have seaports that receive genetically engineered (Roundup Ready) soy, mainly from Argentina.  Waikato councils have a large poultry industry in their region which uses transgenic feed and a substantial dairy industry which uses the poultry manure from that industry, thereby disseminating any transgenic material throughout their region.  The existing regulatory requirements are for visual assessment of any consignment on arrival as the hatches are removed, with no obligation for further monitoring.  A shipment may represent many thousands of tonnes.  According to the Ministry of Primary Industries no inspection is done nor will be done under current requirements.  Thus Councils in areas such as these are particularly at risk, potentially from both the transgenic content and the glyphosate-based herbicides contained within the feeds, the levels of which are not monitored.

A press release by PURE HAWKE'S BAY in December 2013 referenced a nationally representative survey by Colmar Brunton showing there was overwhelming support for local decisions in retaining a GE / GM Free status.

In 2009, an independent Colmar Brunton poll, commissioned by the member councils of the Northland Auckland 'Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Management Options' showed that:

·         the communities from Auckland to Cape Reinga strongly favoured making users of transgenic organisms legally responsible for any economic or environmental harm that may result from their release;

·         support for regulation to make users of such technology be strictly liable for any harm caused ranged from 64% to 72% for individual councils;

·         support for local regulation is strongest amongst Maori, particularly in the Northland region;

·         support for local regulation was 72% in Northland (85% amongst Maori).

Collaborative work by councils, including a Section 32 analysis, is for the good of the wider region and meets Councils’ duty of care, and it is critical the jurisdiction of local authorities and the local democratic process is respected by central government.

 

For further information, please refer to our submission letter of 15 February 2014 and see below.

Whangarei District Council on Genetic Engineering www.wdc.govt.nz/PlansPoliciesandBylaws/Plans/Genetic-Engineering/Pages/default.aspx#Expand 

Environment Court Decision November 2013 http://www.boprc.govt.nz/media/321876/environment-court-decision-18-dec-2013-env-2012-339-000041-part-one-section-17.pdf 

Inter-council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options http://www.wdc.govt.nz/PlansPoliciesandBylaws/Plans/Genetic-Engineering/Documents/GE-Reports/Letter-to-Minister-re-GMO-Survey.pdf

Far North District Council on Genetically Modified Organisms / Genetic Engineering

http://www.fndc.govt.nz/services/environmental-policy-and-forward-planning/the-far-north-district-plan/genetically-modified-organisms-gmo#a2 

Hasting District Council on Genetic modification http://www.hastingsdc.govt.nz/geneticmodificatio

Pure Hawkes Bay National Poll, posted 2 December 2013 http://purehawkesbay.org/overwhelming-support-for-local-decisions-on-gm-free-status-national-poll/ 

Radio NZ News - 79% want councils to have power over GM crops – 2 December 2013 www.radio nz.co.nz/news/national/229508/79-percent-want-councils-to-have-power-over-gm-crops-poll

 

The Trustees and Members of Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility New Zealand Charitable Trust

 

Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility is a Charitable Trust established to provide independent scientific assessment and advice on matters relating to genetic engineering and other scientific and medical matters.