The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) is cautiously optimistic about the Government’s announcement this week that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will be governed by the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
GMOs are currently administered by the Environment Risk Management Authority (ERMA). ARC Councillor Brent Morrissey, the council’s representative on the Intercouncil Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Options has had serious concerns about ERMA.
“This change is a clear indication that the Government knew ERMA was letting them down,” says Cr Morrissey. “I’m now calling on the Government through the EPA to face up to its responsibilities on GMOs and for them to ensure that liability for the effects of their use falls on the user, and not other innocent parties.”
Last year the High Court stopped an Ag Research proposal for the wide-ranging release of transgenic animals to undisclosed locations in the North Island. Justice Clifford questioned ERMA’s rigour in accepting Ag Research’s vague proposal. Later in the year, existing GE field trials of brassica were shut down when it was revealed that MAF was not adequately monitoring them and violations of the licences had taken place.
“ERMA fared badly last year. It took a big knock in the high court and the subsequent revelation that MAF hasn’t been fully monitoring in Christchurch only served to heighten my concerns. Let’s hope things change,” says Cr Morrissey.
“I am urging the government on behalf of the Intercouncil Working Party to start a new chapter with this change. Our clean, green image cannot be tarnished by genetic engineering. Liability must be sorted and the EPA must step up the management of applications and the field tests it authorises,” said Cr Morrissey.