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.

25 January 2019           

 

Mr Ben Lee                              

Planning & Policy Team

Northland Regional Council

Private Bag 9021

Whangarei Mail Centre

WHANGAREI 0148

 

Dear Ben

FURTHER SUBMISSION OF PSGR IN RESPONSE TO COUNCIL’S DECISION TO LIMIT ITS CONSIDERATION OF GMO RELEASES ONLY IN ITS COASTAL MARINE AREA

  1. Council’s decision to seek only a CMA-limited assessment by planners - your ‘Joint Witness Statement of Planners’ - (undated) refers.
  2. PSGR wishes to advance a further submission on this matter.
  3. PSGR notes that your Council directed the planners to confine their advice to the narrow matter of GMOs only in the Coastal Management Area (CMA).
  4. PSGR contends that the Council’s CMA-constraining terms of reference for the planners was arguably unlawful in that:-
  5. a) It ignored a relevant consideration that GMO releases on land would likely reach and could possibly have an adverse effect upon the CMA.
  6. b) Council, in explicitly disregarding such a relevant consideration, arguably exposes Council to a legal challenge that it has used its discretionary powers improperly.
  7. c) Council has advanced no compelling reasoning for its exclusion of land-based releases of GMOs. Thus that Council decision appears to be arbitrary, unconscionable and therefore unlawful.
  8. d) Further, such an arbitrary decision is inconsistent with Council’s praiseworthy recognition of the need to use regulatory powers to address GMO-related threats to people and the environment that the precautionary principle and/or probability suggests may have material first, second and third-order adverse effects.
  9. e) Council’s exclusion of GMO’s in the land environment is arguably unlawful in that such an exclusion is likely to run counter to, circumvent or undermine the purposes and intent of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).
  10. Council’s ‘opinion’ that it is free to disregard land-based releases of GMO’s (in the absence of compelling reasoning) is arguably likely to be found – on a test in the higher courts – to be an opinion that could not be reasonably held and therefore that its associated decision on exclusion of land-based releases of GMO’s was (perhaps) an unintentional or mistaken misapplication of public power.
  11. PSGR wishes to offer a suggestion that may be helpful to Council.
  12. PSGR assumes that Council (from its approach giving rise to the PSGR contentions listed above) has not had access to unbiased, well-informed and relevant scientific opinions that have advised Council on the hit-and-miss nature of current genetic engineering technologies (particularly that CRISPr new technologies are not accurate as their proponents claim). Or, if Council claims that it has received such advice, then PSGR contends that such advice was either incomplete or misleading or inadequate; or that the Council has not subsequently given due weight to risks that arise from the release of land-based GMOs.
  13. PSGR therefore offers to use its contacts to provide Council with access to such independent and expert scientific opinions so that the extent to which regulatory controls are needed in both land and marine areas (in order to address properly RMA purposes) is approached in a way that gives due weight to both probabilities of adverse outcomes and the appropriate exercise of the precautionary principle in Council’s use of its public powers to set subordinate legislation.

RECOMMENDATION

That Council should seek and commission independent and expert scientific opinion on genetic engineering techniques that assesses risks on land and at the coastal margins of the release of genetically-modified substances; and that such scientific opinion should take into account the public interest and therefore a precautionary approach while giving due weight to relevant statutory purposes.

We trust that this assessment and its associated recommendation is helpful to Council.

Yours sincerely

Brian M Maskell, Trustee