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GM rules not strict enough - report

Tuesday 5 Feb 2013 8:58 a.m.

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Councils are being urged to ban the commercial use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to ensure land-owners and rate payers aren't left with the bill if anything goes wrong.

The Inter-Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options, representing all councils in Northland and Auckland, has spent 10 years evaluating regulation of GMOs at local and national government levels.

It is recommending councils prohibit commercial outdoor uses of GMOs, and require Resource Management Act consents for outdoor field trials.

That would require changes to district plans and Auckland's new unitary plan to prohibit the release of GMOs into the environment, and make GMO field trials a "discretionary activity", and therefore subject to strict liability conditions for any environmental or economic harm.

New Zealand is yet to grow any commercial GMO crops.

Convenor Kerry Grundy says the working party found "significant deficiencies" in current regulations.

There is no liability under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act for damage, or any requirement to provide bonds to recover costs.

That means land-owners and councils, not those behind GMO technology, would be left to pick up the cost.

The working party says there is a lack of scientific agreement on the long-term effects of releasing GMOs into the environment, a lack of information on long-term environmental consequences, and uncertainty and disagreement about the economic benefits and costs GMO crops and animals.

"In addition, the potential adverse effects of releasing GMOs into the environment could be significant - including possible major, and long-term, harm," the working party says.

"These effects could be irreversible. Once released to the environment it is, in most instances, impossible to eradicate such organisms."

Councils say they will consider changes to regulation as a result of the report.


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