Rural round-up

July 25, 2014

Federation wins rates remission against urban sprawl:

Federated Farmers is thrilled that common sense has prevailed in the Horowhenua District Council’s unanimous decision to adopt a rates remission for farms being rezoned as urban.

“Due to the urban sprawl, farmers are increasingly being rezoned as urban, and consequently being faced with enormous rates bills, but thankfully the Council listened to us and has taken a more common sense approach,” says James Stewart, Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei provincial president.

“Federated Farmers suggested a similar rates remission policy to its neighbouring Kapiti Coast, in order to avoid unnecessary costs to farming businesses, which would reduce their competitiveness with other farmers in the region. . .

Council and farmers work together – Chris Lewis:

As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”. This is now evident in the Waikato as we see comparative data in effluent compliance, prepared by the Waikato Regional Council, pre the collaborative process and to now.

With farm inspections on the ground having increased by just over 200 farms since 2012, we are seeing a conscious effort to work alongside farmers rather than be a distant enforcer. Every successful business or individual knows that their achievement depends on a community working together, with a shared vision or goal. . .

Focus on farm-exit water quality :

The Otago Water Plan’s Plan Change 6A (PC6A) was not about the Otago Regional Council using a ”big stick” to ensure compliance for water quality, chief executive Peter Bodeker said.

He said the council did not wish to dictate to land owners, farmers, horticulturists and forest owners how they managed their properties.

The council decided to take an ”effects-based approach” to controlling discharges from properties, rather than regulating operational methods, and to encourage management practices that ensured water leaving the property was of sufficient quality. . .

Gold surge tipped for Zespri - Richard Rennie:

An impending avalanche of Gold kiwifruit will present as many challenges as opportunities for growers over the next two seasons and returns are expected to ease as a result.

Zespri chief executive Lain Jager used this year’s annual meeting to caution growers about the prospect of moving from a post-Psa famine in gold fruit to a feast by 2018.  

The latest harvest yielded the lowest volume yet of the high-value fruit, at 11.1 million trays, reflecting the grafting change from the disease ravaged Hort16a variety to the more Psa-tolerant Gold3 and associated varieties. . .

Ag scientist’s career marked by contrasts  - Sue O’Dowd,

Agricultural science has provided a Taranaki man with a career marked by contrasts.

There’s been the ice, snow and dry valleys of Antarctica and the desert of Saudi Arabia. Malcolm Macfarlane has also worked for the New Zealand Fire Service and in the hillcountry of the North Island’s East Coast, where he’s undertaking forage research.

Although he lives in Inglewood, where wife Rosie Mabin is Inglewood High School’s principal, he’s a scientist for Hastings-based On-Farm Research. . . .

The latest dairy farm syndicate spurns debt as investors focus on risk – Greg Ninness:

Roger Dickie NZ has launched a dairy farm investment syndicate that will have almost no debt.

The company is best known for putting together forestry investment vehicles, but its latest offering, Eastbourne Dairy Farm Ltd, will be its third dairy farm offering and it has also previously syndicated a sheep and beef property.

Eastbourne has been set up with a company structure in which investors will buy shares, with 11 million shares on offer at a dollar each and the minimum investment being $25,000.

The proceeds will be used to buy an established 241ha dairy farm in Southland and a 520 cow herd. . . .

 


Rural round-up

July 9, 2014

Thoughts from the UK – Alan Barber:

While in the UK briefly last week I spent a couple of nights with an old university friend who actually got a First in Agriculture at Cambridge which was the best degree achieved by any of my friends or, not surprisingly, me. He farms near the M4 in Berkshire less than 100 kilometres from London.

As usual when I see him, we were chatting about the state of agriculture in our respective countries. He asked me whether I needed a ‘pommie farmer whinge’ to provide some material for a column, so not unnaturally I told him to go ahead. His first complaint was about the amount of New Zealand lamb competing with British lamb in the supermarkets. I suggested the view back home was the natural seasonal fit of New Zealand product didn’t really cut across, but rather complemented, the seasonal availability of British lamb. . .

Professional Foresters Award Their Achievers:

Leaders in the forestry industry were recognised at the New Zealand Institute of Forestry’s annual awards dinner held in Napier last night.

Forester of the Year was awarded to Paul Nicholls, managing director of Rayonier NZ,for outstanding service to the forestry industry.

The award is one of the highest accolades in the industry, recognising contribution, leadership, excellence and integrity. . . .

 Agrarian socialism’s sticky end? - David Leyonhjelm :

THE sugar industry is notorious for attaching itself to the public teat. Concentrated in several marginal seats along the Queensland coast, it has a long history of extracting taxpayer subsidies when prices are down, coercing governments into mandatory use of ethanol in fuel, and blocking imports of both sugar and ethanol.

Most famously, a decade ago it received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to help it restructure in the face of low prices. Prices bounced back soon after the scheme commenced and, apart from the impact of abolition of the single desk in 2006, not a lot of restructuring occurred. They kept the money though.

A major controversy has now erupted as a result of the decision by the sugar processing company Wilmar to sell all its sugar direct to international customers rather than via the grower-owned marketing organisation, Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL), beginning in 2017. This has prompted another processor, Thai-owned MSF Sugar, to suggest it may follow suit. True to form, there are numerous calls for regulators and governments to intervene. A horde of politicians, including the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, is taking a close interest. . . .

 Environmental support for sheep and beef farmers:

Sheep and beef farmers will have a stronger voice in the regions on environmental issues, through an agreement between Federated Farmers and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has added a regional policy capacity to its national and international policy activities directed at sustainability, through a contract with Federated Farmers to use its regional policy network.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive, Dr Scott Champion said: “Federated Farmers has an excellent regional network. Rather than duplicate that, we’ve reached an agreement to use its resources on regional environmental issues.

“We think this is the most efficient way of using sheep and beef farmers’ money to strengthen our voice in this important area.” . .

Genetics used to combat facial eczema:

Dairy farmers battling the devastating livestock disease facial eczema are getting help from scientists and a cattle breeding company.

Facial eczema is a fungal disease spread from spores in pasture. It can kill livestock and is estimated to cost dairy farmers about $160 million a year in lost milk production.

AgResearch and CRV Ambreed, with the backing of DairyNZ, are taking a genetics approach by breeding dairy cattle that are more resistant to the disease. . .

Clue to late puberty in sheep discovered by AgResearch:

A needle-in-a-haystack search for the genetic cause of delayed puberty in a flock of Romney ewes has paid off for a team of AgResearch scientists.

Understanding what regulates the arrival of puberty is important for livestock breeding as well as human health.

Researchers in AgResearch’s Animal Reproduction team at Invermay had noticed that late puberty was a family trait in their research flock. This caused the late developers to miss out on lambing during what could be their first breeding season. They had previously demonstrated that late developers also produce fewer lambs during their lifespans. . .

Rural talent on display in Lincoln:

Every year New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF) members from across the country come together to catch up, cheer on their Grand Finalist at the ANZ Young Farmer Contest, compete in the clay target shooting, fencing and stock judging national finals and attend the Annual General Meeting.

The top scoring competitors from the regional levels represented their regions as they battled it out for top place at the finals in Lincoln University, Friday 4 July.

The winner of the Gun City Clay Target Shooting Final was Waikato/Bay of Plenty’s Jeffrey Benson of the Hamilton City Young Farmers Club followed by Isaac Billington of the South Waikato Club and in third place was Otago/Southland representative, Brendon Clark of the Tokomairiro Club. . .


NZ 5th for doing good for planet

June 25, 2014

The Good Country Index measures how much each of 125 countries contributes to the planet.

Irish people, rejoice! It turns out, your green land is the “goodest” country in the world. That’s right. The “goodest.” At least, that’s according to Simon Anholt, who’s spent the past two years compiling an index to determine which of 125 countries contributes the most to the common, global good.

“I wanted to know why people admire Country A and not Country B,” Anholt said . . . “To cut a long story short, I discovered the thing people most admired is the perception that a country is good. That turned out to be much more important than the perception they’re rich or beautiful or powerful or modern or anything like that. So then I wanted to know which countries are perceived to contribute the most to humanity — and which countries actually are good.” . . .

There are 125 country balance sheets graded across seven categories, including things like science and technology, world order, prosperity and equality and health and wellbeing. Each of those seven has got five datasets in them. Take for example world order. That includes five data sets representing things like how much each country gives in charity and overseas development, its population growth, and its status of ratification and signatories of UN treaties. . .

Anholt admits there are flaws in his approach.

So despite the disparity in the measurements, the different timeframes, the different everything throughout the data, you stand behind this Index. Couldn’t someone reasonably pick holes in the approach?
The objections to the approach massively outnumber the supporting factors. I have become the world’s leading expert on why this is a crap idea. And I decided to do it anyway. The simple reason that I’m not claiming to have the final answer on any of this. This is a very well constructed piece of research, but it’s by no means the final answer, because you couldn’t have the final answer unless you had enormously more data than is currently available. So it’s designed to be basically a step in the right direction.

What do you want people to take away from the Index?
The reason I’ve done it is not because I wanted to do an index but because I wanted ordinary people — not politicians – to start thinking about whether countries are good or bad. At the moment all they ever talk about or measure is whether a country is successful. We have fallen into the habit of measuring the performance of countries as if they were islands, as if they had no connection with each other, and as if one country doing well had no impact whatsoever on other countries. But of course this is the age of globalization, and the central fact of the age we live in is that every country, every market, every medium of communication, every natural resource is connected. A chicken catches a cold and sneezes in a Chinese village. 20 years ago that would only have been bad news for the chicken and its immediate family; today it threatens the survival of the human species because of globalization. Two small banks fail in rural America. 20 years ago that was no problem except for them and their communities; today it knocks the entire global economic system for six.

And you don’t think that countries are legislating effectively for the global age?
Countries still behave as if they weren’t connected; they still measure their performance entirely inwards. My argument is that we can’t just blame governments for this, it’s the fault of populations who don’t demand anything different of them. They say they want three percent growth or they’ll vote for someone else. We have to start asking where that growth comes from. We are screwing poorer countries to buy products more cheaply, we are raping the environment to produce more energy to drive our industry faster. Countries perform better and better but the world and planet and humanity in general are getting worse and worse. The whole system starts to look like a rapidly growing tumor. It has an illusion of health because of its growth but it’s almost as big as the host body.

How will thinking globally help?
It’s essential to get ordinary people along with politicians and businesses and so on to start to ask themselves about the international implications of what they’re doing. That’s what I mean by a “good” country. I don’t mean morally or ethically good, but a country that considers the common good as much as it considers its own citizens. By day I’m a policy advisor, I advise presidents and prime ministers around the world, 53 of them in the last 20 years, I haven’t seen a single example of a domestic issue or policy that wasn’t massively improved by considering the international context.

But wouldn’t you agree that there’s a pretty big disconnect between policy makers and “ordinary” people? How do you make people aware that they have to pay attention — and appreciate that they actually can influence said policy makers?
There used to be this automatic and universal relationship of love and trust between citizens and their cities or their city states, the equivalent of the modern country. What that is being replaced with today is a relationship of prostitution. It’s very simple: We throw money at the government as if they were hired management teams and tell them to sort out our problems and they’ll hear from us if we don’t like the way they do it. It seems to me that’s a very sad thing and it has to somehow change.

It’s interesting to hear you describe the government as basically crap middle managers to whom we have delegated the task of running the world. Business plays such a big part in this — particularly with globalization. Certain companies are arguably more powerful than countries now. How does that play into the Index? And what of the fact a public company has a fiduciary duty to do the best it can for its shareholders, which might contradict what we otherwise see as being “good”?
Just as public companies have a fiduciary duty to shareholders, so there’s an unwritten supposition but very real rule that a government’s primary duty is to its citizens. No one would dream of questioning that. And I don’t, either. I just say it’s not impossible to align that with a broader, further-reaching, longer agenda.

The fact is that companies are way ahead of countries in this. They underwent a revolution ten, twenty years ago of Corporate Social Responsibility. In fact, when I first started working on this, I came up with this ludicrous tag, “Governmental Social Responsibility,” because it’s an exact equivalent. Now, people love to sneer at CSR, and when you probe to find out why, the main answer seems to be that people think that companies are being hypocritical. And that’s interesting because I don’t think it matters. I’ve seen this work over and over again. Someone starts behaving in a right-on way for purely cynical reasons, they’re lying through their teeth, just doing it for PR. But the moment it starts working — and it usually does work — and they start receiving some of that warmth from public opinion, it becomes the most important thing they’ve ever done. Their reputation, as soon as they start to earn one, instantly becomes their most treasured possession. They will do anything to maintain that reputation and build it further; they will even become good – even that! — in order to maintain it. That little loophole in human nature is probably what will save us all.

I think this means the results aren’t as important as the intent – to get people thinking globally and influencing governments to do the same.

The Good Country Index is here.

 


Rural round-up

May 30, 2014

AgResearch makes changes to Invermay plans –  Vaughan Elder:

AgResearch has made some changes to its plan to slash jobs at Invermay, but the majority of staff will still be moving north to Lincoln.

Invermay staff, along with those affected by planned restructuring at AgResearch’s other campuses, learnt their fate today, with the organisation making a final announcement – as signalled in today’s Otago Daily Times.

There were some changes made to its plans for the Invermay campus, with three deer researchers no longer relocating to Lincoln and the creation of two new science roles. . .

Give AgResearch a chance:

Federated Farmers understands that with any major decision there will be concern, however, it is asking people to look at the best strategic outcome for New Zealand agricultural science.  Above all, to give AgResearch the chance to reform itself as a 21st Century Crown Research Institute.

“I think farmers should welcome the way AgResearch has listened to reason because Invermay’s future has been enhanced over the original proposals,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Food Production Sciences spokesperson.

“There have been some regional gains for those in the south and north, with the Invermay and Ballantrae hill country farms being kept for sheep, beef and deer research.  Invermay will clearly become the centre for deer research.

“We must remember that this restructure is not this year, next year or even the year after.  We are talking 2017 and while one out of every four scientific or technician roles will be asked to relocate, that means 75 percent will not. . . .

DINZ welcomes finalisation of AgResearch’s Future Footprint:

Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) has welcomed announcements, made today by AgResearch, finalising the shape of its ‘Future Footprint’ restructuring.

DINZ Deputy Chair, Jerry Bell, said that it is important that the plan is now finalised, giving certainty to the staff who will be affected, and DINZ was satisfied that the final changes to ‘Future Footprint’ were significant and a good outcome for both Invermay and the deer industry.

“While we accepted the strategic rationale for Future Footprint, we have been concerned throughout that such strategic change can be very disruptive and can contribute to a loss of important people. In that context, it’s great to draw a line under the process.” . .

Consultation on the sale of raw milk to consumers:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is asking for public feedback on options for the sale of raw milk to consumers.

MPI’s deputy director general Deborah Roche says any changes would need to balance people’s desire to buy and drink raw milk with the requirement that food safety risks are properly dealt with.

“It’s clear that there is still a demand for raw milk and that more and different options for its sale need to be considered. It’s important people have the opportunity to comment on this matter so that MPI can consider all viewpoints before making any recommendations for change. I would encourage anyone that has an interest in raw milk sales to consumers to have their say,” Ms Roche says. . .

New president for Federated Farmers Marlborough:

Federated Farmers would like to welcome our new Marlborough provincial president, Greg Harris, who is replacing Gary Barnett, following their Annual General Meeting.

“Greg has been a part of Federated Farmers for 20 years and is well versed on the issues surrounding the Marlborough region, having stepped up from the provinces’ Meat & Fibre Chairperson role,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers National President.

“I would like to thank outgoing provincial president, Gary Barnett for his service to the province and Federated Farmers; he has been an integral part of the Federation.

“We are in a year of change within the Federation, with leadership changes throughout the organisation both nationally and provincially, Greg is an incredibly passionate advocate for the farming community and I know he will do a fantastic job,” said Mr Wills. . .

Rabobank recruits new animal proteins analyst:

Rabobank welcomes new-comer Angus Gidley-Baird, appointed as a senior animal proteins analyst to cover the sheep and beef sectors, joining the bank’s Australia & New Zealand Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory division.

General manager of Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory Luke
Chandler said Angus’ appointment brought to the team a great depth of agricultural knowledge, as well as mainstream political and economic policy awareness.

“Angus’ entire career has been spent in agribusiness and throughout this time, he has gained a very strong foundation in the sorts of issues impacting farmers and industry stakeholders all the way through the supply chain,” Mr Chandler said. . .

Orange roughy ecolabel to assist exports:

Sealord has welcomed the next step in the journey to have New Zealand orange roughy globally recognised as a sustainable seafood choice.

Three of the main orange roughy fisheries have been submitted for assessment by the Marine Stewardship Council to verify if they can carry the world’s best known marine ecolabel.

New Zealand’s quota management system has allowed industry and government to work together to achieve this and Sealord Fishing General Manager, Doug Paulin, says that MSC certification will provide an additional assurance to customers.
“Globally, New Zealand seafood has a great reputation and Sealord customers will be supportive of this new measure to show retailers and customers alike orange roughy is a sustainable choice,” said Paulin. . .

Boutique Wine Festival Brings the Best of New Zealand to Auckland:

After a successful launch in 2013, the second annual New Zealand Boutique Wine Festival is set to return to Auckland’s Imperial Building on Sunday 15 June 2014.

This year’s festival will see 21 boutique vineyards from around New Zealand showcasing more than 200 wines across a huge range of varietals, creating a one-of-a-kind cellar door experience.

Throughout the day, event attendees will be able to explore wines from different regions, enjoy fantastic food and wine pairings, great live music, and participate in blind tasting seminars throughout the day. . .


Rural round-up

May 24, 2014

NZ’s rural businesses struggle to attract equity capital to develop – Graham Turley:

Agri-business is New Zealand’s most productive and successful business sector yet it struggles to attract investor capital.

It seem counter-intuitive, particularly with all the talk of food bowls for Asia, that a sector which represents more than 25 per cent of New Zealand’s economy is widely perceived as difficult and inaccessible for investment – whether those investors are retail, large fund managers or overseas looking to invest in New Zealand’s agricultural success story.

Few successful agriculture-based businesses are listed on the NZX, especially when you consider how significant a contributor agriculture is to the economy. . .

Mackenzie Country farmer wins top deer award:

Paddy Boyd, manager of Haldon Station in the Mackenzie Country, is the winner of the 2014 Deer Industry Award.

The announcement of the award at the annual Deer Conference in Methven on Wednesday was followed by a sustained standing innovation for a farmer who has been a behind-the-scenes industry leader from the 1970s to the present day.

The award citation listed Paddy’s involvement in numerous industry groups including quality assurance, the Cervena strategy, velveting standards, Tb eradication, genetic improvement and environmental standards. . .

Kiwi team and supporters in charge in Ireland:

Six New Zealand shearers, including World Championships representatives Rowland Smith and John Kirkpatrick, have made it to the semi-finals of the Irish All-Nations Open championships semi-final in Gorey, Ireland.

Smith headed the 18 qualifiers after 70 shearers took part in the open-entry heats on the first day of the 16th Golden Shears World Championships, while Kirkpatrick qualified in third place.

They were separated by Scottish World championships contender Hamish Mitchell, whose teammate and defending World champion Gavin Mutch was a surprise elimination. The All-Nations has no bearing on the World Championship, for which the first round will be held tonight (Friday NZT).

The other New Zealanders still in All-Nations contention are five-times World champion David Fagan and son Jack, and Smith’s brothers, Matt and Doug. . . .

Passenger to be investigated for carrying plants:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating an air passenger it nabbed carrying two concealed plants in her shirt.

Watchman, one of MPI’s most experienced detector dogs, sniffed out the plants on the passenger arriving from China at Auckland airport yesterday afternoon.

The woman had rooted cuttings in a plastic bag hidden in her shirt sleeve and under a coat.

“It appears the cuttings were to be planted and that this was a deliberate attempt to smuggle risk items into New Zealand,” says Craig Hughes, MPI’s Manager, North, Passenger and Mail. . .

Delegat’s says 2014 harvest supports sales growth projections – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Delegat’s Group, the winemaker which last year bought Australia’s Barossa Valley Estate, said its just completed 2014 harvest will allow it to achieve its forecast future sales growth.

The Auckland-based winemaker expects to increase wine sale volumes by 2 percent to 1.985 million cases in the year ending June 30, accelerating to an 8.8 percent pace in 2015 and 8.9 percent in 2016, according to projections detailed in its 2013 annual report. The 2014 harvest amounted to 35,127 tonnes, as its New Zealand vintage increased 18 percent to 34,123 tonnes. Its Australian harvest, the first vintage since acquisition of Barossa in June last year, amounted to 1,004 tonnes, the company said today.

“The 2014 vintage has delivered excellent quality in all regions,” managing director Graeme Lord said. “The group has appropriate inventories to achieve future sales growth in line with guidance provided in the 2013 annual report.” . . .

Researchers start a wine revolution:

The global wine industry may be on the cusp of a revolution, thanks to pioneering genetic research conducted by scientists at Lincoln University and Plant & Food Research that not only has ramifications for controlling disease and increasing productivity, but will quite likely mean completely new varieties of grapes and styles of wine.

The research project initially commenced to fill a knowledge gap in the identification and function of the genes that underpin the key characteristics of grapevines. The goal was to bed down a research framework, such as those used by researchers with other plant species, to establish a knowledge base for the study of gene behaviour and the critical processes of grape production.

As the research developed, however, new opportunities became apparent, and a greater emphasis was placed on investigating the potential for manufacturing and encouraging the expression of genetic elements within grapevines which may, in turn, come with commercial benefits. . .

Premium Amisfield Wines to Be Showcased At International Event in Venice, Italy:

Celebrated New Zealand wine producer Amisfield will showcase a premium selection of its wines to a select international audience at the prestigious 14th Venice Architecture Biennale.

The specialist producer of multi-award-winning Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines will be the exclusive wine sponsor and supplier to the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) exhibition at the Biennale from June 5 to November 23.

Amisfield wines, sourced from fruit grown on its estate vineyard beneath the Pisa Mountain range in the renowned Central Otago region, will be served during the official opening events and associated events for the duration of the Biennale at the New Zealand exhibition, to be staged in the Palazzo Pisani Santa Marina. . .

Comvita annual profit rises 3.3% as honey price squeezes margin, sees more growth in 2015 - Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Comvita, which produces health products from manuka honey and olive leaves, lifted annual profit 3.3 percent as the rising cost of honey squeezed margins, and said revenue and earnings would grow in 2015.

Net profit rose to $7.6 million, or 24.37 cents per share, in the 12 months ended March 31 from $7.4 million, or 24.52 cents a year earlier, the Te Puke-based company said in a statement. That’s slightly ahead of the $7.5 million profit Comvita signalled earlier this month. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 11 percent to $16.4 million and revenue gained by the same amount to $115.3 million.

“Margins were impacted by the very strong New Zealand dollar and from further sharp rises in the cost of Manuka honey,” the company said. “Because of contractual commitments on pricing in the fast growing China market these costs couldn’t be recovered within the annual time frame.” . . .

New president for Federated Farmers Waikato:

Federated Farmers is thrilled to welcome our new Waikato provincial president, Chris Lewis, who is replacing James Houghton following their provincial AGM.

“Chris has been a part of Federated Farmers for nine years and is well versed on the issues surrounding the Waikato region as well as the dairy industry at a national level,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers National President.

“I would like to thank outgoing provincial president, James Houghton for his service to the province and Federated Farmers and congratulate him on his role on the Waikato Waipa Stakeholders Group, in continuing the collective conversation around water quality in Waikato.

“We are in a year of change within the Federation with leadership changes throughout the organisation, both nationally and provincially, Chris is an incredibly passionate advocate for the farming community and I know he will do a fantastic job,” said Mr Wills. . .

Shocking Sharemilker compliance revealed:

With just over a week until it closes, Federated Farmers is blowing the whistle on the four-fifths of Sharemilkers who are yet to vote in the 2014 DairyNZ Levy referendum.

“The last time I checked only 20 percent of sharemilkers had voted and that’s a shocker turn out,” says Neil Filer, Federated Farmers Sharemilkers section chairperson.

“It’s like seeing only 100 people physically in Eden Park for the upcoming England test.

“I need to send a rocket to our guys to pull finger and vote. We’re the ones that get the most from the levy as it sets up the best possible industry for us. . . .


GE has place in NZ

April 8, 2014

The audience at the annual Kim Hill Earth Hour debate decided there is a place for genetic engineering in New Zealand.

. . . Ninety minutes of pros, cons and broad views presented by panellists Tony Conner (AgResearch),  Robert Cruickshank (Lincoln University) and Richard Newcomb (Plant and Food Research) on one team and Christine Dann (Organics Aotearoa), Philip Gregan (NZ Winegrowers) and  Jon Hickford (Lincoln University) on the other, with close interrogation of them all by Kim Hill, was followed by 30 minutes of questions from the audience.  Chairwoman Sarah Walters, Deputy Mayor of Selwyn, then invited the audience to indicate by “noise” how they felt on the question.

Sarah ruled that the “ayes” were “slightly louder” signalling that genetic engineering should stay on New Zealand’s agenda “as a research opportunity” but with the provisos that it be well regulated, that consumers have a choice between GE and non-GE through strict labelling, and that the role of large overseas corporate organisations funding, and thereby influencing, research, be curbed. . .

Richard Newcomb added that the “GE debate has become completely intertwined with the anti-big business debate and with the notion of big business controlling food production and supply.” . . . .

He’s right – many of those opposed to GE are on the left of politics and also opposed to what they label big business.

Defending the environment, Christine Dann said she believed genetic engineering was “ecologically dangerous and too risky.”

“If everyone had their own little garden and grew their own vegetables the problem would be solved,” she said.  . .

If she is right, and I don’t think she is, Would she care that a whole lot of other problems would be created including job losses?

New Zealand is taking a very cautious approach to GE which is as it should be.

But the vehement opposition to it is based on emotion not science.

That a majority of the audience gave cautious support, albeit with provisos, to GE gives some hope that science might win.

 

 


Not as green as they’re painted

April 7, 2014

Organic production is better for the planet, isn’t it?

The Green Party which advocates for a far more organic production would have us believe it is but University of Waikato professor of agribusiness Jacqueline Rowarth says that isn’t so:

. . . People’s first consideration when buying food was price, despite claims they might buy based on factors like organic growth, she said.

While people might think buying organically or from the farmers market was environmentally friendly, research showed carbon dioxide emissions were higher buying that way, Prof Rowarth said.

A lot of so-called environmentally friendly policies, including buying local, organics, and recycling aren’t nearly as green as they’re painted.

Support for them are often based more on emotion than science.

The need for more of the latter was another point Prof Rowarth made:

. . . The future of ensuring the world’s population was nutritionally well fed was incorporating all the best technology, including the strategic use of genetic engineering, she said during a public lecture at the University of Otago yesterday.

There also needed to be a greater research and innovation culture so advances could be made to feed the world’s ever-growing population.

”That is why in New Zealand we need to encourage everybody to become involved in science,” Prof Rowarth said.

The downsizing of the Crown research campus at Invermay and the discussions about making science elective at school in year 11 did not meet that brief, she said.

”Nutrition depends on agriculture which depends on an understanding of the soil.” . . .

Scientific research and advances have and will continue to improve agriculture and nutrition.

There were plenty of examples of how the past few hundred years of science had helped increase the yield from plants and animals, improving human nutrition.

Advances in wheat and milk production were prime examples.

The benefits of this were highlighted in the fact that the percentage of the world’s population that was malnourished had dropped significantly from 34% in 1969 to 17% in recent years, even though the population had grown massively.

”More people are fed to a better level of nutrition. It is a triumph of agriculture.” . . .

A triumph of agriculture based on science and hard work.

Prof Rowarth also dispelled a few modern-day myths on modern food consumption, pointing to literature showing in real dollars food was cheaper than it had ever been, even though it ”didn’t feel like it”.

People could now afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, as they were more affordable than ever, and what they should be worried about was their consumption of highly processed foods.

”Back in 1912 you were lucky to get vegetables, maybe a carrot or potato.” . .

Cheaper doesn’t mean cheap but we have a far wider range of food at prices which make the cost of feeding ourselves a lower percentage of most household budgets than it was for previous generations.

An increase in organic production and buying local will reduce yield, choice and increase prices and the environmental worth of such practices isn’t backed up by science.

 

 

 


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