GMO regulation for govt not councils – Feds

Federated Farmers agrees with Environment Minister Amy Adams that the regulation of genetically modified organisms should be a matter for central government not local bodies.

“Federated Farmers would welcome amendment to the Resource Management Act to “clarify the respective functions and roles of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and local government,” as the Minister put it,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Local Government spokesperson.

“We are not overly impressed with some councils wasting ratepayer resources on trying to ape the EPA. As Minister Adams put it, councils should not “set up their own independent states where they write their own rules and ignore the national framework”.

“Especially when those rules are based on what seems to be ‘pub-talk’.

“A Northland inter-council working party’s draft section 32 analysis recommending ‘local regulation’ to restrict GMO’s, only references one website known for its anti GMO stance, one anti-GMO book and one of the key proponents for local regulation.

“A section 32 analysis should be based on sound science but this analysis is neither unbiased nor rigorous. It puts these councils on a collision course with the EPA, which does possess the brainpower and resources to test more than an internet search engine.

“Bizarrely, the Northland inter-council working party’s analysis makes no mention of the GMO based equine influenza vaccine, which is currently approved for conditional release in New Zealand.

“Nor, I must add, what the cost to Northland’s bloodstock and racing industries would be if councils tried to block its use.

“That’s why the legality of councils regulating GMOs is highly questionable.

“Federated Farmers view, shared by Minister Adams, is that the only appropriate way to make these decisions is through careful scrutiny of the science. We entrust the EPA with the scientific and funding resources to make these types of scientific assessments.

“Councils need to stick to their knitting and regulating GMO’s is not it,” Katie Milne concluded.

Councils, often rightly, complain about obligations and subsequent costs imposed on them by central government.

They should be relieved that this is one responsibility they aren’t required to shoulder.

Councils are unlikely to have the expertise to properly evaluate GMOs and more likely to be swayed by emotion than science, as most opposed to them are.

22 Responses to GMO regulation for govt not councils – Feds

  1. robertguyton says:

    This is an anti-democratic position for the farmers union to take. By denying the council, through it’s governance body, the democratically elected councillors, the ability to represent the wishes of the people of the region, Amy Adams and the NAct Government have by-passed democracy, as they have done in Canterbury with both Ecan and just now, the CCC. If a community strongly objected to the release of particular GMOs in their region, they should be able to engage their councillors to do that. That would give that community choice. Choice, remember that? It’s a rarer commodity nowadays than it was pre-Nact. If however, the EPA was to say ‘no’ to this GMO and that GMO, then councils should concur. There is a difference.


  2. jabba says:

    Call for an independent inquiry bOb .. Make up some cool signs and get marching… You can do it.


  3. robertguyton says:

    I’m making a cool sign right now, jabba…


  4. Armchair Critic says:

    It’s a pretty good effort at conflation that you’ve found there, Ele. The Farmers Union rep seems to think that the EPA and councils do the same thing; they don’t. By way of examples:
    In 1983 the central government thought nuclear powered warships were OK, and safe. Local government, in many locations, disagreed and on behalf of their constituents banned nuclear powered ships. After a general election the central government changed its mind (one of the few good things the fourth Labour/first ACT government did).
    Central government thinks alcohol is wonderful, mostly due to the tax revenue it brings. However, councils and licencing trusts have some control over sale of alcohol.
    Pokie machines are pretty cool, just ask the PM. They’re a good way of getting free tickets to the corporate box at the rugby. Councils have the ability to regulate the hours, numbers and locations of pokie machines.
    Prostitution. Central government is OK with it. Councils want to be able to say how many and where. So they do.
    All four of the things listed above (nuclear power, alcohol, gambling and prostitution) have been known for much longer than GMOs, but we still allow the safety net of local government to check the appropriateness in a local setting, even though the central government has given them the big tick.
    With all the incompetence that the current government has shown in managing the economy for its mates, mismanaging the intelligence community, forgetting donations and phonecalls, leaky sensitive reports, setting up Solid Energy to fail, getting a poor return on MRP and then seeing it was over-valued, deriding and then u-turning on the city rail loop, investing in roading projects with appalling b/cs, education reforms in Christchurch and special schools, and to finish for now, whatever it was Richard Worth did, how can we trust them on GMOs?
    It’s not good enough to say “some central government body has ticked it off, so local government gets no say”. Local government is the closest thing we have to real democracy in NZ, and National’s efforts to hobble and disestablish it in the last few years are shameful.


  5. robertguyton says:

    AC’s response here is so comprehensive that it all but guarantees no one will challenge what he has said, imho. On top of that, he’s quite right. The willingness of the blog host and her supporters to swallow the Government’s authoritarian spin on this issue is quite disturbing.


  6. Armchair Critic says:

    I’m certain it will be challenged, Robert. Not directly, using complexities like coherent thoughts and words, though. After all, there’s no need to think and express your thoughts when you can simply press the thumbs down button whenever something offends you.


  7. Mr E says:

    I can see a little issue called cost….
    How much is it going to cost to build a dome over each region to keep organisms in/out?
    Or perhaps we could dig a trench 100km wide and 200m deep between each region. Of course we will need some sort of automatic laser gun system to keep out birds carrying GM seeds (not to mention GM birds too). And fish nets keeping GM carrying fish away.
    The councils will needs some kind of biosecurity division to check all travellers going to and fro. And all organic items will need to stay in quarantine for weeks to be checked genetically for their GM status. That includes pets, seeds, grains, foods, livestock, us…. If we leave the region and eat in a GM region we will need to be quarantined while GM DNA passes through…. New border cities will be needed. Or perhaps quarantine (refugee) camps is a better term.
    Industry will need to change. Regions that have GM will not be able to process organic items in other regions. Think milk, beef, lamb, grain. Each region will need its own infrastructure. Processing, ports etc.

    If you think I am over complicating the issue. Ask yourself, have you consumed GM material? Do you know? Is NZ GM free? No.

    Robert and AC will no doubt know, once GM material is out, there is little one can do to control it. The small issue of identifying GM material limits realistic control.

    I wonder how many pragmatist have considered the issue. Green ideologies could be very expensive. No surprises there though.


  8. TraceyS says:

    “If a community strongly objected to the release of particular GMOs in their region, they should be able to engage their councillors to do that.”

    You make them sound like puppets Robert.

    How does it sound in reverse?

    “If a community strongly approved of the release of particular GMOs in their region, they should be able to engage their councillors to do that.”


  9. JC says:

    Going to be a lot of people moving to those places that will still allow you to use GM medicines like insulin, some types of milk, interferons, vaccines and therapeutics.

    You’ll be in trouble if you have diabetes, MS, hemophilia, hear attack, stroke, HIV, tuberculosis and cancer.

    And we’ll all be in trouble when the councils ban dihydrogen monoxide.



  10. TraceyS says:

    Based on the cost to build Forsyth Barr Stadium the dome for Otago will be about $309 billion.


  11. robertguyton says:

    You are making a very strong case, Mr E, for saying no to all GMOs, given that their spread cannot be managed. A very strong case indeed, thanks.


  12. robertguyton says:

    Tracey, I agree with you, of course. The role of a councillor is to represent his or her constituents. As well, they/we are trained to make good decisions. The PD is called, “Making Good Decisions” and allows a councillor to sit on a hearings panel, amongst other things. If a community said, yes, a councillor would have to take that into account and weigh it up beside the other factors. Don’t you agree? However, AC is correct where he says that a blanket decision from central government that removes all input from local bodies, is anti-democratic and his ‘nuclear ships visiting’ is a good example.


  13. robertguyton says:

    You are conflating the argument against GMOs in the field, with medicinal applications. That’s an old, hackneyed argument and a waste of time. No one’s arguing it. And your final claim is all wet.


  14. TraceyS says:

    Quite honestly Robert, I think a lot of councillors will be relieved. Just look at the issues raised by the fluoride argument – even where the majority of constituents want it. One council even tried to give that decision back to central government didn’t they? Fluoride is a minor controversy in comparison with genetic engineering.

    There isn’t time for long recycled arguments, going around in circles every few years, misusing the same old research, and allowing every loud voice to take the soapbox. GE derived carbon-neutral hydrocarbons may be the only way to rescue the earth from the abomination of CO2. And we have no time to lose either!

    And if the time ever comes when you can buy a portable device pre-loaded with GE bacteria to produce fuel at home for next to no cost, I reckon every person in the country will happily drop the “N” out of “IMBY”. In my back yard – yes please!

    Hope I live to see it 🙂


  15. Armchair Critic says:

    If ever such a device is created, Tracey S, it will be priced in line with the prevailing energy prices at the time and licenced and patented to within an inch of its life, to protect the income stream and investment of the owners of the technology.


  16. TraceyS says:

    Like those little wireless telephone thingys everyone is now wandering around with AC. But probably not you.


  17. Armchair Critic says:

    Yes, just like that. Do you think they come at next to no cost? Mine cost almost $1, 000 upfront and a couple of hundred per month to run. I’d like to be in a position to say “and that’s next to nothing”, but I can’t. I use it a lot; it costs a lot.
    Now, about these GMO energy producing devices. What makes you think they will run at “next to no cost”?


  18. TraceyS says:

    My husband had one of the first, like a briefcase it was. Cost about $2,000 and was hopeless as well as very expensive calls and poor coverage.

    When I worked away from home during the week (in early to mid 90s) it would have been nice to have a video phone to call home. They were available, but one on it’s own was no use, and the cost was about $2,000 apiece. Then there were the delays…and the cost of calls.

    My last mobile phone was free. Of course there is no such thing as free really. But calls are much cheaper than they used to be and coverage, battery life, etc – everything is better than 17 years ago when I got my first. The only reason we have these improvements is because there was money to be made for the good people working on the technologies.

    I think portable GE hydrocarbon fuel units would be very similar. A number of different institutions are working on the research which could bring them to life. There are also a number of different pathways being researched and we will see if one big outfit tries to hold patents for all of them.

    Anyway, the point is not only about price, it is about alternatives. At the moment there are no real alternatives to match oil. This could be the first.

    The cost issue is two-fold. Firstly, the process uses carbon dioxide as a feedstock and is supposedly carbon-neutral so there is little cost to the environment. Secondly, that by having the potential for portability and high uptake (just like mobile phones) there is room for cost to continually be reduced for the consumer even while technology companies make their profits.

    This may seem far out, but then three years ago (or less) most of us thought that about 3D printing technology. Now it’s here.

    I really think it’s time you got on board with genetic engineering.


  19. Armchair Critic says:

    Nice anecdotes and theories Tracey.


  20. TraceyS says:

    In a way Robert is right (although I hate to say it), “old, hackneyed argument[s]” are a waste of time. We should be looking to the future.

    The fluoride/no fluoride in water argument is old and hackneyed.

    So is the GE/no GE argument.

    Of course we should have GE for many different applications.

    Some councils have a habit of trying to please everyone and this isn’t a good way to solve problems. It often makes for watered down decisions.


  21. robertguyton says:

    GE pasture grasses?



  22. Mr E says:

    Surely not Robert. I look forward to the release of safe GE organisms and their likelihood to spread freely.
    Isn’t it great how nature likes to spread humans hard work. And for freeeeeeeeeeeeee. How exciting.


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