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Council GMO powers 'nonsense': Smith

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/09/2016

It doesn't make sense for local councils to decide on regulating genetically modified organisms, says Environment Minister Nick Smith, who is flagging a law change.

A government review was announced on Friday after the High Court earlier this week upheld an Environment Court ruling that councils can control the use and release of GMOs on their patches.

But Dr Smith said that could hamper a trial at Auckland Hospital for the liver cancer vaccine, Pexa-Vec, which involves a GMO.

"The new Auckland Unitary Plan prohibits the release of any GMO and would not allow any such future medical treatments," Dr Smith said.

"It does not make sense for local councils to duplicate the role of the Environmental Protection Authority in regulating the use of GMOs in New Zealand.

"The EPA has taken a very cautious approach, approving only two GMOs in 20 years - an equine flu vaccine and the Pexa-Vec trial."

Dr Smith said councils did not have the technical expertise and their regulations could have unintended consequences.

"The further problem is that there are no biosecurity controls between councils, so having different rules on what organisms are allowed in different districts becomes a nonsense."

Dr Smith said the government could change the law so GMO approvals and controls were determined by the EPA and not councils.

"Any changes that may flow from the advice will involve public consultation," he said.

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