Hawke’s Bay food producers win battle to remain free of genetic modification

Rural Exchange 04/08/2018

Hawke’s Bay food producers have won a legal battle that will permit Hastings District to remain free of genetically modified crops.

In 2015, Hastings District Council became the first in New Zealand to adopt its Genetically Modified Organism (­GMO)-free status under its district’s plan. But Federated Farmers appealed the decision through the Environment Court.­­

It’s all about making sure that people can trust our food.

A recent ruling upheld the council's decision to prohibit the outdoor release and field trials of GMOs. Federated Farmers has dropped its attempt to overturn the region’s GMO-free status.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazelhurst told RadioLIVE that she’s “delighted” with the ruling, which she says will bolster the global reputation of the region's products.

“It’s all about making sure that people can trust our food,” she said.

Global consumers prefer to buy safe food, says Ms Hazelhurst. They want to know where their food is coming from, and the region’s food producers simply want to meet that demand.

“It’s actually about our brand. We have a story and we know exactly where our food comes from, how it is grown. And we want to tell that story when we send that food across the world.

But not everyone is happy with the court’s ruling.

Dr William Rolleston, former Federated Farmers president, rejects that GM crops are unsafe.  

“It’s quite clear that this technology in itself is not a problem in terms of safety,” he said.

Dr Rolleston believes farmers have the right to use approved GM technologies, particularly because GM can help address competitive markets and reduce environmental impacts.

“I don’t think safety is actually an argument that is used anymore,” he said.  

Dr Rolleston told RadioLIVE that “fear is easy to sell”, which is precisely what activists sold to the region 20 years prior.

In 2000, the Royal Commission on GM crops concluded that New Zealand should “proceed cautiously with genetic modification but not close the door to the opportunities offered by the new technology”.

Watch the full interviews with Sandra Hazelhurst and William Rolleston above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.