The Māori Party has thrown its weight behind the call to ensure amendments to the Resource Management Act don’t allow Ministers to force genetic modified crops on regions that want to ban them. This follows a productive meeting with organic sector leaders in Wellington.
Anti-GMO and other lobby groups are concerned that broad provisions in section 360D of the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill could allow the Environment Minister to overrule local councils who want to stop the planting of GMO crops in their areas.
The right of councils to declare their territories GE-free was a hard-fought 15-year battle by iwi and hapu, farmers, food producers, scientists and environmentalists. Several councils, including Hastings, Whangarei and the Far North, have banned the planting of GM crops over the last 15 months, although Federated Farmers has challenged this in court, arguing local government has no role in legislating about GMO.
The offending clauses in section 360D are ostensibly aimed at preventing confusion when the same policy is present in two different bits of legislation. However, in a December 12 letter to Environment Minister Nick Smith, Māori Party co-leaders Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell say they are concerned “section 360D could be used to potentially override GMO-free areas if it is determined that there is ‘duplication or overlap’ between the relevant rule/s in the District of Regional Plan and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.”
A delegation from the organics sector met with Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox and others from the Māori Party in Wellington on the same day the letter went to Nick Smith. They are calling for a clause to be added to 360D to explicitly exclude the Environment Minister using the new powers under the Bill to stop councils regulating the release of GMO.
Marion Thomson, Chair of the Soil and Health National Council, led the eight-strong delegation to the Māori Party, along with Percy Tipene of Te Waka Kai Ora (Māori Organics Aotearoa).
Marion says the meeting was a success and “a very worthwhile use of time and resources”.
“We felt that Marama understood the effect that a lack of clarity around the wording in this clause would have on organic growers and producers, Hua parakore [an indigenous verification and validation system for mahinga kai (food and product production)] and all those marketing locally and globally under a GE Free banner.”
Marion said Marama had raised concerns during the meeting about GMO medical treatments, something that Minister Nick Smith had raised with her.
“We reassured her that it is not the intention to prevent GMO medical treatments. The Far North, Whangarei and Hastings District Council and the Auckland Unitary Council plans all have wording that state that medical uses are provided for as a permitted activity.
“We also offered to provide technical support and advice around policy development from our vast range of expertise on organics, hua parakore and GMO's, which she welcomed.”