If there’s one issue that could be the making of the Hawke’s Bay region, it’s taking a stand on genetically modified (GM) food production.
Just like nuclear free forged New Zealand’s reputation as a country of integrity, I believe that our region’s commitment to GM free fields has the power to set us apart and ahead
It will send a powerful message to the people who buy our food and wine overseas and the growing numbers of visitors who come to Hawke’s Bay to experience our food and the land where it is grown.
Our Hastings District Council also sees this as a defining issue for our region. It is the first council in New Zealand to protect our fields, orchards and other productive lands from GM releases.
As a Hastings resident and business owner, I am proud of the Council and the leadership it has shown. It has listened carefully to the arguments for and against and believes that we benefit from being a place that grows GM Free food. It is also keeping our options open: in ten years we will review that position, and if the world and has moved on, so can we.
Really, it is no pain and all gain for our community and our hard working food producers: consumers around the world don’t want GM foods now and wont change their minds any time soon.
Why the National Government wants to rob us of this opportunity is a mystery but the clues all lead to a political agenda at play, running alongside Federated Farmers.
Despite so many Hawke’s Bay businesses supporting GM Free, the local MP Craig Foss remains silent.
So any attempt by Mr Foss to remove himself from helping protect Hastings GM Free growing status is certainly going to test him - as the local MP.
He can not keep hiding behind Minister Nick Smith and deflecting from answering questions on why his remains silent on this important local issue.
Being absent is not an option.
There can be no excuses, he’s not on the hop, he is running for the Tukituki seat again and voters have a right to know if he has their back, or not.
Unlike the Government and the local MP, Labour has listened to food producers. We will not be supporting any changes to the law that take away Hawke’s Bay’s right to chart its own course on GM agriculture.
We believe that Hastings District Council and the local community it represents, like any other, should be able to make that strategic call when it comes to economic benefits.
When it comes to the safety of GMOs, however, we believe that the Environmental Protection Authority – and not councils - has the expertise. The same goes for medicines and the medical professionals.
We can’t miss the opportunity to stake our place in the world as a region that embraces innovation, that is welcomed by the people we grow food for – this is what truly sets us apart.
I will do everything I can to make sure that Hastings and Hawke’s Bay keeps the right to remain a GM Free food producing region. I believe it is worth fighting for.
If I was the local MP I would see this as a real opportunity to “back the Bay”.
It’s one of those defining moments for a local MP – to support the will of their local community, or not.
And as we’ve seen before in Hawke’s Bay before there are consequences when a Government decides to challenge our democratic right to make local decisions.
There is nothing gained by forcing decisions on communities that take our local power away.
We also know that a local issue can result in a local MP losing a 6400 majority in Tukituki. It’s happened before, and dare I say it, but history has a way of repeating itself.
It’s certainly worth stating, given the political predicament Mr Foss now finds himself in locally.