13 September, 2012. Source: GE Free NZ
GE Free NZ and Bay of Plenty ratepayers who were original submitters to a local Bay of Plenty plan have received notice of an appeal to the Environment Court, lodged by NZ Crown Research Institute Scion. This appeal contests the Environment Bay of Plenty Regional council’s (BOPRC) “Precautionary approach” to GMO release and field trialling in the region.
It is sheer hypocrisy for Scion to actively oppose council policy designed to protect the public interest. The legal action is in stark contrast to previous claims by Scion that the CRI supports a precautionary approach to GMOs.
Scion has received tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers to develop GM pine trees. Now it is using public money to oppose policies designed to keep it accountable to the communities that fund it.
“The policy wording that Scion is attacking is the region’s insurance policy. The council have included a commentary outlining the documented inadequacies of present legislation under HSNO. This is an important first step in protecting ratepayers from unintended adverse impacts from GMOs,” says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
“If Scion is truly committed to a precautionary approach to GMO land use it should have no problem with the precautionary approach set out in the BOP proposed Regional Policy Statement. The precautionary GE wording does not mean that the council will place any requirements above and beyond those set by national regulator, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”
The action taken by Scion this week is of concern to primary producers in various sectors right across New Zealand. Crown Research Institutes should not be attempting to undermine the sustainable management of natural and physical resources by local authorities.
“The socialised risk of GE experiments onto the public under inadequate legislation (HSNO Act) means that local authorities everywhere should be concerned by Scion’s move, and the potential placement locally of GE trials or containment facilities,” says Jon Carapiet.
After a robust and transparent process of consultation with Bay of Plenty ratepayers and residents, the council is now in a position to represent the community in any GE application lodged with the EPA.
Where EPA decisions on GM trials and releases are truly precautionary, then the council will not need to act. However, if an EPA decision does not provide sufficient protection for local foresters, farmers or the wider community, the council’s precautionary policy will allow proper safeguards to be introduced.
Community concerns over GE experimentation in the field continues to grow, after a number of documented breaches of the conditions of approval by ERMA for GE field trials (including NZ Crown Research Institutes Scion, Crop & Food Research, AgResearch and HortResearch*.
1. Most recently, Scion’s CEO, Warren Parker is cited as supporting a precautionary approach to GMOs in the NZ Farmers Weekly (21 May 2012 edition, p. 28)
when he refers to the precautionary approach recommended by the Royal Commission into Modification (back in 2000)
2. Scion is seeking deletion of the following policy in the Proposed Regional Policy Statement:
The existence of genetically modified organisms in the environment has generated community concern. Of particular concern is the placement and location of trial and containment facilities. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council promotes a precautionary approach to the release, control and use of genetically modified organisms within the region. The precautionary approach is a necessary response to unresolved issues of potential liability, environmental risks, economic costs, and cultural and social effects. The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 contains specific legislation for managing genetically modified organisms. These legislative functions are carried out by the Environmental Protection Authority. Current legislation may be inadequate to manage potential adverse effects from the use of genetically modified organisms in the region.
Proposed Bay of Plenty Regional Policy Statement. Council Decisions, August 2012
3. All comments from NZ FARMERS WEEKLY newspaper on GE pines/ Scion/ precautionary approach to GMOs
16 April NZ Farmers weekly
p. l6 “GM pine trials vandalised”
by Rebecca Harper
21 May 2012 edition
“Viewpoints on damage to GE pines” p. 28
Dr. Ron Lopert of Tauranga vs Dr. Warren Parker, CEO of Scion (Scion Chief Executive responds)
16 July 2012, p. 20 letter to editor
“Keep experiments in the laboratory” by Linda Grammer, Maungakaramea, Northland
4. IAG (Interim Assessment Group) approval of the GE tamarillo trial at HortReseach Kerikeri facility in Northland.
The Royal Commission was quite clear about GE tamarillo trial #51 in their Report (Chapter 6, p. 123), stating: “We heard considerable public doubt about the adequacy of the containment of this trial. The Commission considers that this public concern was justified.”
The Royal Commission identified the risks from horizontal gene transfer and other forms of genetic pollution, stating:
“In light of concerns that have arisen this year in connection with horizontal gene transfer (HGT) we consider that rigorous monitoring of field trials is essential and that all material associated with the trial must be removable from the site.”