NEW ZEALAND – The Minister for the Environment, Dr. Nick Smith, is due to approve the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF). The Ministry of Primary Industries received over 16,000 submissions on the NES-PF seeking the removal of a clause (6.4) on genetically engineered (GE) trees that would overturn the ability of Councils to protect their communities by placing precautionary controls on GMOs.
“If the Minister disregards the submissions and approves GE trees in the forestry standards, he will be in breach of democratic principles,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.
“He will also directly conflict with the Auckland Unitary Plan  Whangarei and Hastings regional and district plans. All have placed controls prohibiting the release of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and made outdoor field trials a discretionary activity”.
To respect democracy and the rights of ratepayers and consumers that are reflected in existing laws is vital.
The Auckland Unitary Plan strengthens the ability of the community in the Auckland region to protect itself and gives a mandate to represent their views at the Environmental Protection Agency, but the Minister is attacking this with extraordinary powers through legislative changes.
“The ability of regions to protect their environment from GE contamination is imperative. The labeling of GE foods and the right to meet the demand for GE-free products in export markets is in the economic interests of all New Zealand,” said Jon Carapiet spokesperson for GE Free NZ.
The attack on democratic process in New Zealand is mirrored in Australia, where there are now moves underway to stop labelling of GE foods.
“The New Zealand government Ministerial push for GE-trees, along with powers aimed at removing regional plans for GE-free zones, are an affront to democracy. The Ministries efforts to align with the US biotechnology industry strategies will deny consumer choice and undermine New Zealand’s competitive edge in global markets.”