Grass is ‘green’ but . . .

New Zealand’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are small on a global scale and, unusually for a developed country, a high proportion come from animals.

Millions of dollars is going into research which is showing promise but there is a road block to circumvent:

AgResearch scientists have developed a genetically modified ryegrass that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% but biotechnology experts warn regulations could delay its use.

Though it has several environmental benefits and could boost production it faces regulatory hurdles here because it has been genetically engineered.

The scientists have shown in the laboratory the ryegrass, called High Metabolisable Energy (HME), can reduce methane emissions from animals by 15% to 30% while modelling suggests a reduction in nitrous oxide of up to 20%.

It has also shown resilience to dry weather and can increase milk production by up to 12%.

Environmentalists have berated agriculture for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions but if laboratory results are replicated in the field, HME could reignite the GM debate.

This reminds me of the question – what would an enviromentalists do if they saw an endangered bird eating an endangered plant? – but this isn’t a joke.

Research has produced grass which could reduce emissions and boost production but many of the people who are demanding urgent action on climate change are also likely to be opposed to this because it’s genetically modified.

AgResearch Grasslands principal plant biotechnology scientist Greg Bryan said HME could transform NZ farming by reducing its environmental footprint and improving animal productivity.

“The potential value to GDP based on modelling we have done is in the range of $2 billion to $5b a year in additional revenue depending on the adoption rate by farmers.”

But New Zealand’s regulations mean HME field trials would have to be done overseas then repeated here.

Earlier last week scientists and science leaders attending a NZ BIO symposium at Massey University warned NZ’s GM laws had not kept pace with technology such as gene editing.

Much of the developed world was embracing GM and while NZ scientists were leaders in this science, regulations might prevent its use.

New Zealand leads the world in many areas of agriculture but the blind opposition to GM is handicapping our scientists.

Approval for field trials was technically possible but realistically difficult, with restrictions that no reproductive material left the site, thus preventing plant breeding studies. 

In an interview after the symposium, Bryan said international science companies were not interested in a small, temperate, pastoral farming system, making HME a NZ solution to a NZ farming system problem.

The 15-year HME project cost AgResearch $24 million with another $24m expected to be spent before it was ready for commercialisation. . . 

Seed multiplication in containment glasshouses was under way ahead of field trials planned for 2018-19 and animal nutrition trials in 2020. Depending on those results approval would be sought for NZ trials.

Bryan said GM organisms had been used for over 20 years in agriculture and the growing number of products on the market had not caused health issues for humans or animals eating them. . . 

On the contrary, developments like golden rice have proven health benefits.

This grass is “green” but what’s the bet the people who consider themselves greenest will oppose further trials the most.

Caution with new technology is sensible, blind opposition is not.

 

52 Responses to Grass is ‘green’ but . . .

  1. Andrei says:

    New Zealand’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are small on a global scale and, unusually for a developed country, a high proportion come from animals.

    I can only draw the conclusion that we are ruled by nonsense

    Look at this for an example of New Zealand Tax payer funded crap

    Life on earth is fueled by releasing energy stored via photosynthesis into organic compounds (that is compounds containing carbon for all you uneducated dullards out there) in process that releases CO₂

    This has been going on since before the “Cambrian Explosion” and if you don’t know what that is google is your friend

    And for out vapid political class, which includes the empty headed National Party BTW to waste our money, time and energy fretting over it when there remain significant issues effecting real human welfare that remain unaddressed is to our shame as a Nation

  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    Some of the most compelling arguments for GE free agriculture are economic ones. This research is in the very early stages and some economic analysis needs to be done on the cost/benefits of introducing a GE grass in relation to losing our GE free status.

    We need to move with some caution when there are often dangerous side effects from engineered crops that aren’t always apparent until proper trials are complete. We wouldn’t want to throw away our GE free status only to find a similar scenario to this:
    http://www.odt.co.nz/regions/southland/316032/new-swedes-linked-dairy-cow-deaths

    “On the contrary, developments like golden rice have proven health benefits.”

    And some downsides…
    http://nlcatp.org/9-essential-pros-and-cons-of-golden-rice/

    It pays to take a balanced approach to major decisions and not get carried away with the accompanying hype 😉

  3. Gravedodger says:

    No problem for any melon, they will continue their total opposition to human acceleration of genetic change in laboratory environments and still shoot 10% of the cows.
    Of course most of us will be left to live in caves with a fire if lucky while the ruling class with their green cloak of sanctimony forced to live in luxury, warmand well nourished so they can grapple with the burden of ruling.

  4. Dave Kennedy says:

    GD, read my comment and try to have a reasoned approach rather than this “melon” nonsense. Such emotive, rather than rational responses, just comes across as fearful of the logic of what I have presented. Attack the argument, not the person and you will have more credibility as a genuine commenter.

    The luddite accusation is also nonsense, it is National that desperately clings to the age of fossil fuels and refuses to properly fund R&D. https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/smarter-economy/smart-green-innovation

  5. Will says:

    Well done Dave, I didn’t think you would disappoint.

    New Zealand’s ‘vast’ emissions are such a threat to the world we must sacrifice our economy, but a GE solution is too great a risk to our economy. Have you purchased an abattoir by any chance? Aiming for a knighthood for services to the meat industry?

  6. Will says:

    God help me, I actually read the link. Just promises of grants subsidies, and a billion dollars of tax payers’ money spent. Not one single idea or proposal. But when one comes along…he shoots it down.

  7. Dave Kennedy says:

    Will, you are being disingenuous with your attack. Please tell me what is wrong with the following points that I made:
    1) Any GE research should be conducted responsibly and using the precautionary principle to avoid situations like the HT swede debacle.
    http://www.precautionaryprinciple.eu/
    2) Any GE release should be done with referrence to a cost/benefit analysis of wider impacts (i.e. whether there is a risk of losing profitable GE free markets).
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/7612107/GM-free-means-good-sales-for-NZ

    I am disappointed that you are reacting in such an emotive way when this topic deserves serious discussion. If GE grass adds up environmentally and economically I would support it myself. We need to base decisions on evidence.

    A billion dollars in R&D (that includes tax credits for businesses that make spending on innovation a priority) makes perfect sense. Certainly more sense than spending multiple billions on Motorways that fail cost/benefit analysis. The only way to lift our low wage economy is to build high skilled jobs and industries.

    Also the reason that our universities are dropping in world ranking is because of the lack of funding in science and research. The billion dollars in grants and subsidies will see a high economic return to that investment in a multitude of ways.

  8. Andrei says:

    Any GE research should be conducted responsibly and using the precautionary principle…

    Applying the precautionary principle would mean nothing would ever get done and no progress would ever be made Dave Kennedy

    You wouldn’t get on an airplane because it might crash

    You wouldn’t eat mussels because they might carry listeria

    You wouldn’t go to the movies because the theater might catch on fire

    You wouldn’t go to a soccer game because you might get crushed in a stampede

    ,,,

  9. Dave Kennedy says:

    Nonsense, Andrei, it is all about plausible risk:
    “The judgement of plausibility should be grounded in scientific analysis. Analysis should be ongoing so that chosen actions are subject to review. Uncertainty may apply to, but need not be limited to, causality or the bounds of the possible harm.
    Actions are interventions that are undertaken before harm occurs that seek to avoid or diminish the harm. Actions should be chosen that are proportional to the seriousness of the potential harm, with consideration of their positive and negative consequences, and with an assessment of the moral implications of both action and inaction.”

    On that basis none of the examples you list would be considered a risk. There is a 1 in 11 million chance of dying in an airplane crash.

    What level of risk do you believe is the lowest that would be acceptable?

  10. Name Withheld says:

    The judgement of plausibility should be grounded in scientific analysis. Analysis should be ongoing so that chosen actions are subject to review. Uncertainty may apply to, but need not be limited to, causality or the bounds of the possible harm.
    Actions are interventions that are undertaken before harm occurs that seek to avoid or diminish the harm. Actions should be chosen that are proportional to the seriousness of the potential harm, with consideration of their positive and negative consequences, and with an assessment of the moral implications of both action and inaction.”

    Directly from Google…word for word.
    No original thoughts then?

    Imagine if you will, Andrei, the cavemen in their cave, a sabre-tooth tiger between them and their food…..
    The “sensible green” strides to the front of the cave and announces The Precautionary Principle
    Who’s going to leave the cave? But more importantly when is anyone going to leave the cave?

    Applying the precautionary principle would mean nothing would ever get done and no progress would ever be made Dave Kennedy

    Exactly!

    Idiots.

  11. Gravedodger says:

    Well we agree on one point Mr Kennedy, Melons and Nonsense are all too often synonymous.

    If it has a green outer skin and to some aficionadas a pink/red sweet sugary centre and somewhat dense in makeup then Melon is entirely appropriate as a descriptive noun.
    Also Melon is much shorter than “Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Member and failed electorate candidate”.

    Perhaps Melons in 2016 have evolved with a thinner skin or have they been genetically modified.

    Good Grief (sic) I get called many descriptives that sometimes cause offence from mild to exercising;
    ‘denier’
    ‘tory’
    ‘National supporter,
    old,
    greedy,
    selfish
    and today;
    unreasonable,
    emotive,
    irrational,
    fearful.
    None of which have any basis in fact.

    Where ‘Luddite’ came from I can only surmise that explaining is losing or “he that excuses himself accuses himself”.

  12. Dave Kennedy says:

    Chuckle…I know I am winning the logical argument when the personal attacks are delivered in spades (or shovels in this instance) 😉

  13. Will says:

    Frankly if we are to take the GE route, I’d rather see something useful developed. Facial excema is becoming a nightmare in the North, other areas would have their own wish lists for research. What a waste of time, money and talent.

  14. Dave Kennedy says:

    The medical benefits of GE for NZ are far stronger than any plant research. At the moment there is no known currently available GE plant that would have great benefits for NZ. Most of the developments are around becoming pesticide or herbicide tolerant.

    Golden rice is the most referred to GE breakthrough but NZ isn’t known for growing rice 😉

  15. Will says:

    That’s why we would do our own research, develop products that would suit us.

  16. Mr E says:

    Dave,

    “If GE grass adds up environmentally and economically I would support it myself. We need to base decisions on evidence.”

    How do we assess GE environmentally, when the Greens wont let it be released into the environment? We can’t replicate every environment in the lab. Even trying to replicate a relatively small numbers of environments in the lab is cost prohibitive. Shelving of endless opportunities some environmentally beneficial will continue to happen.

    At what point are the Greens going to relax their panic ridden stance?

    I noted you keep refering to HT swedes and the death of cows. GE did not cause the death of cows. An interaction between the environment, management and plant traits caused the issues. This same issue can exist in conventionally bred plants.

    Currently plant breeders are working on a more animal friendly of HT brassicas.

  17. Will says:

    Even if HT swedes HAD killed a few cows, it’s hardly the end of the world, just a set-back. Greens take caution to phobic levels.

  18. Mr E says:

    Will,

    Plant breeders have experimented with all sorts of aspects of plant traits over the years. Many animals have gone through all sorts of challenges- nothing to do with GE.

    Take endophyte for example. Different combinations of Ryegrass cultivars and endophyte create different outcomes.

    Such experiments continue. Numerous plant varieties continue to be released, with varying positive and negative impacts on grazing animals.

    Greens say little about this because it doesn’t fit their anti GE stance.

  19. Dave Kennedy says:

    “That’s why we would do our own research, develop products that would suit us.”
    I have no problems with this, but we should till make sure that any developments will be of environmental and economic value. To remove our GE free export status for the release of a GE plant that may support one element of our farming sector there must be some sound cost benefit analysis. Clearly this is a logical approach.

    Mr E suggestions of giving up our GE free export advantage based on a chance that something positive may result is too great a risk. I would love to know why an economic assessment of the wider implications of releasing GE plants into our environment is a problem. Also I only referred to HT swedes as an example where the precautionary principle may have saved the lives of hundreds of livestock. There is also the concern of HT swedes ending up on roadside stalls and being consumed by people. Any new food product should be fit for purpose and be thoroughly tested. I don’t share your cavalier approach.

    “Even if HT swedes HAD killed a few cows, it’s hardly the end of the world, just a set-back. Greens take caution to phobic levels.”
    Yep, the Government implemented Novopay with the same attitude. I guess the Greens do have a higher level of expectation around the collateral damage.

    I would hope the farmers were compensated for the deaths of the 200-300 cows and their loss of income. I think most teachers and schools feel that they haven’t been compensated for the stress and staff hours involved with Novopay. The $110 million cost to the taxpayer to fix Novopay could have done wonderful things for special needs children.

    Mr E, I agree with you about experiments with different pastures, this is worthwhile, but these deal with existing plants with known backgrounds and a history of science behind them. I could again put you in touch with a local business, I have linked to before, who have found that good soil and pasture management is producing far better results that one GE grass could ever achieve.

    I do not understand why you and Will are so strongly opposed to a proper assessment of the value of GE to New Zealand in a wider economic context. Your silo thinking is dangerous.

  20. Will says:

    What the hell does Novapay have to do with it? Besides, none of these big database things seem to work, look at Obamacare and NAIT. You will find similar examples all over the world. If GE was as unreliable, I would be the first to complain.

  21. D W Robinson says:

    “What the hell does Novapay have to do with it?”

    Its another name for a squirrel. Another of his diversions.
    Get used to it.

  22. Mr E says:

    Dave,

    Don’t tell anyone…. We are not GE free.
    Even though we’ve had GE here available to the public for over 15years and it has been in the papers, it is a secret. That is the only explanation for your lack of knowledge.

    You want a comprehensive economic cost benefit….. How does one know the benefits when it can’t be field tested? Perhaps we should pluck some figures out of the air?

    Pastoral genomics do research in Oz because pf our strict regs. They claim $1.5billion to the economy. And $500million to households. Does that suffice?

  23. Dave Kennedy says:

    “What the hell does Novapay have to do with it?”
    Will-An excellent example of how rushing into the implementation of something without proper trials or consideration has expensive consequences!

    “Don’t tell anyone…. We are not GE free.”
    Old tired argument, Mr E. We can still export as a GE free farming sector, once we are growing and harvesting GMOs this claim can not be supported. The current trade advantages would end:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/7612107/GM-free-means-good-sales-for-NZ

  24. TraceyS says:

    Dave you are correct that teacher payroll is much too complicated and should be simplified, with the support of the unions, right?

    Good for the kids after all!

  25. TraceyS says:

    “There is a 1 in 11 million chance of dying in an airplane crash.”

    And the chances of dying from eating a roadside GMO are……(sorry can’t answer as Google Scholar doesn’t provide a credible source).

    Actually, death from consuming unpasteurized milk or cheese appears to be much more on the cards.

    Wouldn’t condemn that now would you Dave?

    Greens will have to give up their anti-GMO stance one day. May as well be sooner rather than later.

  26. Will says:

    Or organic mung beans in Europe, remember them? Imagine if GE had killed all those poor people. The fall-out would never cease.

  27. Mr E says:

    Dave,

    “We can still export as a GE free farming sector, once we are growing and harvesting GMOs”

    Seconds ago you were talking about HT swedes, in a GE debate. It is harvested and fed to cows and the milk is exported.

    You seem confused.

  28. Dave Kennedy says:

    “Dave you are correct that teacher payroll is much too complicated and should be simplified, with the support of the unions, right?”
    Tracey, with the support of the government…NZEI has been pushing for a simplified pay model for some time. However similar complexity exists across many sectors, including health where you have a number of different jobs and professions operating under one umbrella. However the crux of the Novopay problem, as it could be with introducing GE, was leaping into implementation when ill-prepared. Building a plane while flying it is not sound practice and this happens all too often (it also occurred with National Standards).

    Tracey and Will, actually few of the arguments I have seen against the introduction of GMOs are directly related to ill-health. The most compelling are the economic ones and wider environmental concerns of pesticide, herbicide tolerant plants that lead to a downturn in biodiversity.

    No confusion Mr E, all I am really promoting is sound practice around any new development (whether it be HT swedes, GMOs or introducing a foreign species). We should encourage innovation and experimentation but to throw something into the economic mix without due process is an untenable risk. The velvet beet issue was accidental but will be costly to manage. Why deliberately set ourselves up for something similar because of rushed implementation. Leaping into field trials with GMOs when the lab based brassica work couldn’t be controlled within the agreed guidelines raises flags for me.

  29. Mr E says:

    Dave,
    What you are saying is the HT issue has nothing to do with you objection to GE.
    It is a seperate issue around the release of newly conventionally bred varieties.

    Because you have an objection to the way conventional varieties are released you should be a supporter of GE. Clearly any field release of GE material will undergo much more stringent testing. Apparently what you want from conventional breeding.

    This point indicates how confused you really are.

  30. Dave Kennedy says:

    No confusion from me Mr E, it is you who is confused.

    I made my two main points earlier that seem to be ignored and you are energetically attempting another diversion.

    It is really really important that before any GMO is released into our farming sector that the wider economic ramifications are properly evaluated and considered.

    You should also be aware that once plants that can actively reproduce are in a field trial situation it is the same as a final release (think velvet leaf).

  31. TraceyS says:

    He’s not confused at all Mr E. He just wants more restrictions and barriers to EVERYTHING.

  32. Mr E says:

    Dave,
    If pointing out that your comments are disconnected to the issue, yes I am dealing with a diversion.

    HT swedes have been a good example of why the Greens should support GE.

    And you have suggested I have ignored your concerns regarding economic reports. I didn’t. I questioned you about pastoral genomics reporting. You ignored my question.

    Tracey,
    NZ agriculture has survived in a world where subsidise are used to prop up competitors. The ‘number eight wire’ attitude, and willingness to research and adopt clever ideas has been the formula for success.
    Dave promotes regulation, cost and restrictions. Things that will rob us of our competitive advantage.

    I think this is a major reason why the country still rejects the Greens.
    The Greens love for reverse has them stuck in neutral.

  33. Dave Kennedy says:

    “He’s not confused at all Mr E. He just wants more restrictions and barriers to EVERYTHING.”
    Good process is not restrictions and barriers, good process means that whatever you do it is well considered and is most likely to achieve the best outcomes. None of you appear to recognise the risks of what you propose (jumping in without due consideration) even though ignoring good process has costs us billions under this Government 😉

    This deserves another GOOD GRIEF!

  34. Mr E says:

    Dave,
    You have gone to great lengths to try and convince people here of the costs of climate change. Are you now proposing there is no risk worth taking to overcome those costs?

    Keeping in mind one of the costs you have promoted has been human life, and the risks you are promoting is a small market place.

    Nobody is promoting ignoring risk. But establishing a possible pathway for GE to market that minimises risk is worth considering.

  35. TraceyS says:

    Dave, I wonder if you are denying the ‘limits to growth’ philosophy embedded in your party. If GE is suspected of delivering growth in human activities (which it is) then I would hazard that the process will never be good enough. The process will be used to manipulate certain outcomes. The more complicated and extensive the process the greater the opportunity for manipulation.

  36. Dave Kennedy says:

    “Are you now proposing there is no risk worth taking to overcome those costs?”

    Mr E and Tracey, What I am saying is that any release of a GMO has to be done through a proper process and regarding the wider effects of the release. What you suggest has no regard for such a process and we have been caught out too often before from such a gung ho approach.

    There also appears to be a very good naturally developed alternative:
    http://www.germinal.nz/news/2011/4/17/nz-grown-high-sugar-grass-cuts-greenhouse-gas-emissions

    Why give up our GE free trade advantage when we can do the same thing without going down the GMO path.

    I feel you have been dishonest in your argument by making it appear that the GE Rye grass was the only solution in solving the methane issue when it clearly isn’t.

  37. TraceyS says:

    “Why give up our GE free trade advantage…”

    Simple. The advantages of the alternative may be greater.

    It is you who is being ever so slightly disingenuous to suggest that ant-GE is all about economics and little about health concerns.

  38. Dave Kennedy says:

    “Simple. The advantages of the alternative may be greater.”

    But only a thorough investigation will establish that.

    “It is you who is being ever so slightly disingenuous to suggest that ant-GE is all about economics and little about health concerns.”

    Health must indeed be a factor, but in relation to GE foods I don’t think there is much evidence of bad health effects from the organisms themselves (perhaps you know otherwise), though possible. Generally it is relation to the chemicals used in conjunction with their cultivation, Tracey.

    In New Zealand’s situation the economic consequences will probably be the biggest issue as suggested in my previous links.

  39. Mr E says:

    “release of a GMO has to be done through a proper process”

    What is this proper process that the Greens propose? For simplicity let’s presume an economic assessment has been done and is supportive ( as is the case). Give us the specifics of the proposal.

  40. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E, read all above again…heading straight to field trials as if there is no other option is just nonsense and you know it. I’m not running down another of your little rabbit holes 😉

  41. TraceyS says:

    “But only a thorough investigation will establish that.”

    No it won’t. Investigations don’t predict future outcomes because most of the variables cannot be controlled.

    I think that is what worries most people…that you might try.

  42. Dave Kennedy says:

    Tracey, I was referring to an economic investigation regarding damage to current markets.

    Any way the desperate need to immediately have field trials for the GE ryegrass no longer exists as I have found for you all an already successful alternative 😉

  43. Mr E says:

    Dave,

    Nobody has proposed immediate field trials.
    Your main point has been that proper process needs to be followed. I want to know what that proper process is.
    You must have some ideas?

    Gosh I hope that you are not hanging all your hopes on Aber grasses. Please tell me you aren’t?

  44. Dave Kennedy says:

    “Nobody has proposed immediate field trials.”
    Thank goodness for that.

    “I want to know what that proper process is. You must have some ideas.”
    The current research regime is probably alright as is, as long as it is followed. I tried to find the link to the current legislation on our Ministry website but the link no longer existed. The following is actually the US Congress Library overview:
    https://www.loc.gov/law/help/restrictions-on-gmos/new-zealand.php

    The only inclusion(that I seem to be repeating many times) would be a thorough investigation of the economic implications of losing our GE free markets before any GMO plant is put to commercial use, but this is already suggested as part of the EPA’s responsibility.

    “Gosh I hope that you are not hanging all your hopes on Aber grasses. Please tell me you aren’t?”

    I certainly wasn’t, but you are giving every impression that the ryegrass in question is providing that for you.

    I would be interested to know your view of the difference between the ryegrass and the Aber grasses when they both purport to do similar things (reducing stock emissions by around 20%). Don’t be afraid to use your genetic degree to explain the differences and advantages of either because my Geneticist friend can assist me if you have to use more complex terminology. Go for it 😉

  45. TraceyS says:

    “We should encourage innovation and experimentation but to throw something into the economic mix…”

    But, Dave, different things are being thrown into the economic mix all the time. The introduction of new technologies can often spell the end for certain types of businesses if they are not open to adapting. No one ever promises that you will be able to do business in the same way, and with the same customers, for eternity.

    There was once a large market for cellulose acetate film but then someone went and threw digital technology “into the mix”. If the introduction of digital had been with faced the prerequisite of doing no harm to the existing industry then it never would have gotten off the ground.

    “…I was referring to an economic investigation regarding damage to current markets.”

    Investigations are not meant to be predetermined but here you’ve already decided that there will be “damage”. Whereas I would only consider it to be damage if the net effect of leaving some existing markets and entering new ones is less trade and fewer opportunities than before. If the net effect is more trade and greater opportunities, overall, then there is no “damage”.

    The focus should be on protecting and furthering the greater opportunities rather than protecting business-model-specific interests.

  46. Dave Kennedy says:

    Oh dear Tracey, you are talking down introducing new species and organisms into our environment as if it is something we should just accept as every day and unavoidable. Biosecurity wouldn’t share your view, neither would DoC as they fight to remove possums and other pasts from our conservation estate and all those combing our Southland paddocks for velvet leaf would disagree with you too.

    If we released a commercial GMO into our farms there would definitely be some negative consequences and damage to some of our markets, this is just a fact. We would immediately lose out on lots of current trade and the value that they bring. What any investigation would have to reveal is whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantageous.

    The clean and green, GE fee market spaces tend to be the higher value ones and losing those would be problematic as you would have seen from the article that I have linked to numerous times.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/7612107/GM-free-means-good-sales-for-NZ

  47. Mr E says:

    Dave,

    “The only inclusion(that I seem to be repeating many times) would be a thorough investigation of the economic implications”

    There was a time where all sorts of bizarre claims were made regarding GM. GM was a perversion.

    Great to see a massive move forward by you and the Greens. It seems you are accepting that the EPA will manage environmental concerns.

    And you need not worry regarding economic assessments. It is an important part of any application.

    To clarify though – there are calls for it to become easier to get GM products to market. You seem to reject that and are essentially saying the current process is right.

    I’m not sure I agree. The EPA requires any impacts of GE release to be mitigated or compensated. That seems unrealistic. If you put a better product in the market place, others will suffer.

    I think some of the restrictions need better thought process.

    Regarding Aber grasses, we don’t need to talk genetics to understand their limitations.
    Last year NZs premier independant testing (NFVT) of grass species and varities included Abermagic, the most widely used Aber variety, and supposedly selected for high DM production.

    Abermagic produced less drymatter than any other diploid* variety . Actually it produced about 70% of the best variety. And produced less DM than one of our earliest varieties Nui. Bred 70 odd years ago.

    Wouldn’t it be great it we could use GM to select plants that were high in Carbohydrate concentrations, and delivered high production? That is what Pastoral Genomics seek to achieve.

  48. TraceyS says:

    “…you are talking down introducing new species and organisms into our environment as if it is something we should just accept as every day…”

    ???????

    When trying to represent my views, Dave, best you quote me directly. Less chance of making a stuff up that way.

  49. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E
    I think the current legislation is robust but am not so confident that the EPA is currently up to the job. Remember when they approved Anadarko’s response plan to a potential oil leak by only reading the summary of the document? The new EPA head Allan Freeth has a background in genetics, one would hope that he manages the obvious conflicts of interest but National does have a history of appointing people to roles with a particular agenda. You may also remember the appointment of someone with a background of leading the introduction of Charter Schools to head our Education Ministry before the ACT coalition agreement? Forgive me for my cynicism.

    That was useful information on the Aber grass however there is no guarantee that the GE ryegrass will perform any better. It is actually a fact that traditional plant breeding has actually been a more reliable way of developing new varieties of plant than using GE. The only examples that exist currently are golden rice and spray tolerant varieties that are beginning to prove problematic.

    If there are more natural ways of potentially developing the same result it seems illogical to commit ourselves so enthusiastically to GE when the evidence doesn’t support it.

    Tracey, did you mean something else? Please explain.

  50. Mr E says:

    Dave,
    “I think the current legislation is robust but am not so confident that the EPA is currently up to the job. Remember when they approved Anadarko’s response plan to a potential oil leak by only reading the summary of the document”

    I remember Greenpeace challenging the EPA’s decision in court. Greenpeace lost.

    I don’t think the EPA’s credibility was tarnished. I think GreenPeace’s credibility was.

    “there is no guarantee that the GE ryegrass will perform any better.”

    With genetic technologies breeders can better target the traits they want without negatively affecting other traits.
    Conventional breeding has less potential to achieve these ends.

    “If there are more natural ways of potentially developing the same result ”

    There isn’t. Why do things have to be ‘natural’? Why do you think that is better? When you get prescribed medication do you ask for the natural alternative? If you were about to have surgery, would you ask for dock leaves to be rubbed on you rather than using local?

  51. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E you are welcome to lists all the GMOs that are currently commercially better than natural alternatives, if it is so successful.

    You also don’t understand how gene technology also enhances natural plant breeding. It is much quicker now to identify useful properties and focus on those in breeding plans.

    The science about adding alien genes into an organism and the interactions that occur with the existing ones is still an underdone science. Some research has found a reduction in nutritional value because of it and you will be aware of the disasters that have occurred with the NZ experiments on cows that have had unpredicted consequences.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10642031

    It isn’t so much about being natural but having acceptable controls and having a reasonable understanding about what you are doing. The two major GE research projects here have been managed badly and, as yet, have produced little of value.

    Perhaps we should invest in what we are really good at and take advantage of the high value markets that they open:
    http://www.plantandfood.co.nz/page/our-research/food-innovation/

    It makes sense to me and it is a pity that you don’t get this bigger picture stuff.

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