A lawyer has told an Environment Court hearing a reference in the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's policy statement to genetically-modified organisms is policy by stealth.
The council says Crown Research Institute Scion wants references to community concerns about the risk posed by the organisms in Bay of Plenty deleted from a small section of its Regional Policy Statement.
Scion claims the reference will result in duplication of the precautionary approach to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Its lawyer, Helen Atkins, said on Thursday that Scion was not opposed to a broad precautionary approach, but rather that GMOs had been singled out.
Scion has been involved in genetically-modified tree research since 1992. It says a national framework is appropriate for managing GMOs and the council's reference would be a duplication.
The regional council's lawyer, Mary Hill, told the court that GMO activities were specifically referred to because of public feedback which sought the development of a genetic engineering policy and which highlighted taking a precautionary approach.
Ms Hill said the issue has not been plucked from thin air.
GE Free New Zealand, the Soil and Health Association, a dairy farmer and a former councillor have been among those giving evidence supporting the regional council's precautionary approach.
The hearing is scheduled to take two days.