INDEPENDENT NEWS

Government’s Rosy View On Biotechnology Doesn’t Match Export Demand For Non-GMO Food

Published: Tue 9 Jul 2024 04:18 AM
The Government has signalled that they will be loosening regulation on genetic engineering in the next 40 point programme. The National Party GE policy to “End the Ban on GE” was written in 2019 on the supposition of modelling and success of GE ryegrass, but before the poor US trial results were available.
It was also written without acknowledging the potential to double exports in the next ten years by taking advantage of double digit (12%) annual market growth to 2032 in the market demand for Non-GMO food, including in China and India.
Other recent reports that have ignored market trends towards natural products include the Aotearoa Circle report on modern technologies and the New Zealand Initiative which have supported liberalising GE regulation.
Their recommendations are biased and misleading because they minimise the real advantages New Zealand has in leading the world in low-emission, GE Free food through existing fit-for-purpose solutions.
Proven improvements for farming systems including superior grasses and animal feed and are being overlooked under pressure to adopt a failing and unsustainable genetic technology solution.
The mixed pasture plants, sustainable methane reducing supplements and animal and plant rotations are available to farmers today, not as a hope or promise for the future that is always delayed and pushed out, such as GE ryegrass.
AgResearch received $25 million for a five-year GE ryegrass project with its United States private partners, Zea Kal and University of Missouri. They were to conduct feeding trials on cows as part of the funding. Growth of the trial ryegrass was affected by close planting and heat consequently it failed to yield enough dry matter for the proposed animal feeding trial to take place. After twenty years of research and trials overseas the GE ryegrass has never actually been fed to animals to provide proof of the claims being made. The GE grass is now being grown in Palmerston North under controlled laboratory conditions to conduct the first animal feeding study with lambs.Results of the 13 field trials in New Zealand.
It is the genetic technology that is at fault not the current regulations which have allowed GE field trials to date.
The history of field trials that have been conducted by New Zealand Crown Research Institutes have had disappointing results. The projected performance of GE has not shown real commercial advantage to farmers over existing solutions.
Trials by Crop & Food of GE brassica plants were subject to bacterial rot that was untested and trials of GE onions were discontinued after five years into a 10 year trial, due to poor results.
AgResearch’s experiments with GE animals resulted in animals suffering life-threatening deformity and having to be destroyed.
The surrogate mothers had a 0-7% birth rate with many calves dying within 24 hours of being born. Concern about animal cruelty is still an issue as AgResearch has continued trials of genetically engineered sheep and goats with new traits which are reported to suffer from similar problems.
Scion development of GE Norway Spruce resulted in small rabbit eaten trees and the trial was discontinued.The trials conducted under current regulations have brought to light these failures.
Strict regulation to protect seed purity from GE contamination has protected farmers from the problems of deregulation of GE technology overseas, and the loss of valuable export markets wanting Non-GE food.
“Farmers have seen that GE plants have added cost of patented seeds, increased use of pesticides and water, contaminated the seed supply, and led to growing weed and pest resistance,” said Claire Bleakley, GE-Free NZ president.
"These problems plague the countries that grow genetically engineered (GE) crops. Increased levels of pesticide in farming and in residues in GE foods have become a serious threat to resilience and sustainability."
Results in many trials on GE crops have shown that conventionally bred hybrids of crops like non GM corn have shown to outproduce the GM varieties
"The government needs to be cautious of the PR hype around gene technology and look to resilience in existing, high quality sustainable solutions with organic regenerative systems," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ.
"The big opportunity for New Zealand is to address climate change without locking farmers into GE technology that goes against our target export consumers and the trend to natural, safe, non-GMO foods."
As countries are grappling with the failures of testing and off-target safety issues that GE has brought, New Zealand has dodged the GE bullet. New Zealand is still GE Free in its environment and commercial food production.

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