Federated Farmers drops legal action around GMOs

Following years of court action for a precautionary approach to genetically modified organisms (GMO), the Soil & Health Association today welcomed Federated Farmers’ decision to drop legal challenges to several local council resource management plans controlling their outdoor use.

Federated Farmers has run a number of cases before the courts challenging the rights of communities in Auckland, the Far North and Whangarei to manage the outdoor use of GMOs within their own districts and regions. The courts continued to find that territorial authorities have the right under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to set their own policies and rules controlling GMO use, a finding that Federated Farmers repeatedly challenged.

Marion Thomson, Soil & Health National Council Member, welcomed Federated Farmers’ decision and congratulated the organisation for seeing the sense in dropping further litigation, allowing Councils to get on with making GMO policies and plans that reflect the needs of regions and communities.

Soil & Health has held grave concerns about the potential impact of GMO land use on regions dependent on an agricultural export sector increasingly reliant on non-GMO requirements of key trading partners.This affects both the traditional agricultural sector and New Zealand’s growing organic sector. There are significant premiums for producers who can provide non-GMO certification.

Marion Thomson, Soil & Health National Council Member said the New Zealand environment and local communities should not be guinea pigs for GMO land use, and welcomes the news about Federated Farmers’ back-down.

“This is about allowing regions and districts to regulate potential GMO land use in a way that protects existing agricultural sectors and reflects community preferences. Soil & Health supports farmers and communities across the country who want to keep New Zealand clean, green and GE-free and today is a huge step towards allowing our communities to do this,” says Ms Thomson.

Auckland Council, Far North District Council and Whangarei District Council all prohibit the general outdoor release of GMOs and made field trials a discretionary activity with performance standards in place, whilst Northland Regional Council adopted a precautionary approach in its regional policy statement.

Soil & Health, representing organic and GE-free farmers, primary producers, home gardeners and consumers across New Zealand, has long campaigned against Federated Farmers in each case.

“This back-down by Federated Farmers is a significant milestone in our fight for a precautionary approach to the outdoor use of GMOs in New Zealand. Soil & Health’s members, as well as a number of other individuals and support groups, have contributed a significant amount of financial investment in to this cause, as well as giving their time to publicly voicing their concerns, and we whole heartedly thank them for their efforts,” says Ms Thomson.