A group of Hawke’s Bay food producers have launched a campaign to keep Hastings GMO Free as the Hastings Council prepares to go head to head with Federated Farmers and the Government.
Pure Hawke’s Bay has put its first stake in the ground, putting up billboards around the region to raise awareness and gain support in the fight to keep Hastings GMO Free.
Pure Hawke’s Bay President, and sheep and beef farmer Bruno Chambers says having a GMO Free region creates more economic and marketing opportunities.
“It means as Hastings producers we can tell buyers and customers that produce grown in our fields is officially GMO Free. If we can’t claim this, we loose our competitive global advantage. We need to tell the GM Free story and officially show the world that we grow produce naturally.
“It adds more value to our exports and creates significant economic benefits for Hawke’s Bay.”
Last year, backed by leading Hawke’s Bay food producers, Hastings District Council became the first in New Zealand to secure the territory’s GM Free food producer status under the local plan.
While this initiative enjoys overall support from producers and the wider community, Federated Farmers is challenging the Hastings decision in the Environment Court.
As well as this, the councils move is also threatened by proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA), which would see the government take away councils powers to establish GM Free Zones.
“Hawke’s Bay food producers and the Hastings Council are best placed to know what is right for our local economy. We shouldn’t have this democratic right taken away. We need the government to work alongside us to keep Hastings GMO Free and help position Hawke’s Bay as a premium food-producing region in the competitive global market place.”
Mr Chambers along with over 100 other growers, pastoral farmers and exporters are on a mission to drum up support to protect the regions high value food exports.
“Pure Hawke’s Bay will be backing Hastings District Council in court and has started a significant fundraising drive to raise the $150,000 needed to put forward a winning legal and economic case.
“We are confident we can secure Hastings’ valuable GM Free status in law, but Hawke’s Bay’s support is crucial to winning this legal battle and influencing politicians when it comes to making decisions on the RMA changes.”
Mr Chambers says Pure Hawke’s Bay is keen to hear from anyone keen to put up a GM Free billboard on their property or support the campaign in any way.
A recent colmar brunton poll found 85% of Hawke’s Bay want local authorities to secure the regions GM Free status.
Hastings is not the only council to be taking this path. Auckland City, Whangarei and the Far North are also poised to adopt similar GMO Free rules, after more than a decade of planning and community consultation.
“Regions around New Zealand recognise that being GMO Free has huge benefits to helping grow our regional economies, creating more jobs, ensuring safe farming practices and food safety, ” said Mr Chambers.
“Seventeen countries through Europe and some Australian states have declared themselves GM Free. Also, GM free produce was the fastest growing food category in USA last year. There is a wave of demand in our export markets for clean safe GM free food and New Zealand is ideally placed to take advantage of this.”