11 Feb 2014

Ruling pleases Scion

3:57 pm on 11 February 2014

Scion is happy with the outcome of an Environment Court hearing over references to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), despite the ruling going against it, the Crown Research Institute says.

Scion took the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to court over a reference to GMOs in its regional policy statment.

The institute, which is conducting field trials on genetically engineered pine trees near Rotorua, was seeking to prevent the regional council from advising caution when considering the use of GMOs.

But the Environment Court has allowed the council to keep the reference in its policy statement.

Anti-genetic engineering campaigners say the court decision has set a precedent which will give local bodies the right to have policies on the use of GMOs in their regions but Scion sees it differently.

Manufacturing and bioproducts general manager Elspeth MacRae said the rewording achieved the outcome it was looking for, and that was removing the possibility of having to go through two levels of compliance to carry out genetic modification research or trials.

"We were concerned that it was going to become another legislative burden after having gone through national legislation to get permission to carry out either field trials or conditional releases of GMOs," Dr MacRae said.

"We were very pleased with the court decision because basically the Environment Court endorsed the fact that the national legislation was sufficient."

GE Free New Zealand spokesperson Claire Bleakley, one of the regional council's supporters in the case, said the ruling would help other local bodies and communities also seeking to limit the use of GMOs.

"Without a doubt, this ruling has mandated that councils have a right, on land use issues, to put GMOs as a significant issue of concern and to put to policies and rules around them if the community sees fit," Ms Bleakley said.

"Scion, and the Government, has also tried to say that no way could councils put this in because it was a central government issue. The Environment Court decision has shown that it is also a community decision and, where it is appropriate, communities can call their councils to put rules and policies around it."