Archaic GM law holding NZ back

June 18, 2019

New Zealand’s archaic genetic technology law is stifling breakthrough science:

Pressure is mounting on the Government to tackle the controversial area of genetic technology, with officials warning if it doesn’t, the country could face lost opportunities – ranging from economic benefits to cutting-edge medical treatments and combating diseases like kauri dieback.

Documents obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act reveal the current law around genetically modified organisms (GMO) is out of date and could be restricting New Zealand’s access to the advancements the technologies provide.

In a Ministry for the Environment briefing to Environment Minister David Parker in June 2018, officials warned New Zealand could fall behind the rest of the world in the genetic engineering space. It said the rapid pace of technological change is forcing countries to clarify their positions, and recommended the Government update the law and at the very least spark a national conversation about genetic modification.

“The developments raise questions as to whether New Zealand’s regulatory framework is still appropriate as the Gnis becoming outdated in light of developments. We believe a broad public conversation is required to ascertain New Zealanders’ views on the developments.”

The HSNO Act has never had a full review, meaning it hasn’t evolved since 1998.  

“The current regime is inflexible and reflects a 1998 understanding of genetic modification (GM) and the social priorities at the time.”

The law hasn’t changed but the science has.

National’s research, science and innovation spokesperson Parmjeet Parmar told Newshub the Government’s dropped the ball and the law should be looked at.

“Looking at the way this technology has evolved over the last seven or eight years, it’s outdated and definitely not fit for purpose.”

Parmar believes ignoring the advice is harming the environment and the economy.

“This is shutting down the conversation, which is not good for any Government. I think we should be really open-minded about seeing how we can take advantage of any technology. This is just like any technology – we need to learn to use it to our advantage and that is where they’re lacking.” . . 

Ecologist Jamie Steer told Newshub the legislation needs to be reviewed because the technology could be a game-changer.

“In terms of gene editing, it’s already been raised as a possibility to affect the Predator Free 2050 goals, including the possibility to achieve one of the interim goals around making a science solution that’s capable of eradicating one of the target species. Another possibility is using genetic modification for increasing the survival and fitness of a species. Both are feasible but would require significant research and public engagement.” . . 

Gene editing is not mixing genes from different species.

It’s simply selective breeding – opting for beneficial genes and getting rid of harmful or less productive ones.

It’s what we’ve been doing for thousands of years. The only difference is that new technology enables it to happen faster.

Gene editing could lead to the development of more nutritious food, it could be used to fight disease in people, animals and plants, it could be used for predator control.

The risks of not moderating the policy, providing its lead by science are far less than the risks of sticking with outdated law based on outdated science.

 

 

 

 


Rural round-up

May 6, 2019

Gas compromise won’t be enough – Neal Wallace:

It appears the Government has compromised in the treatment of biological and long-lived greenhouse gases but a farming leader warns it is too early to break out the champagne.

Pressure from coalition partners is said to have forced Climate Change Minister James Shaw to agree to separate greenhouse gas reduction targets but Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard says the new levels appear to ignore the views of scientists and studies.

Those studies claim that because methane is short lived in the atmosphere, cutting emissions rather than eliminating it will reduce global warming.

Hoggard declined to release the targets he has heard saying they are not official but says it appears the Government has fallen well short of the advice. . . 

Robots take charge – Sonita Chandar:

It is 2am and though it is pitch-black a small mob of cows is strolling toward the cowshed – it is their third visit in one day.

They are the cows that somehow just know a new is paddock available and the only way to get there is through the shed. 

They are what Auckland farmer Brian Yates refers to as hoons.

“Some girls hoon around the three-way grazing system like three-year-olds on red fizzy, arriving at each new break as it becomes available and getting up to three milkings per day. . . 

Joint opportunity – Sheryl Brown:

Cam and Jess Lea have earned the respect of their neighbours to the point that four farming couples have backed them financially into their first sharemilking position after their second year in the industry. Sheryl Brown reports. 

Four Opotiki neighbouring couples have backed Cam and Jess Lea into their first sharemilking business, holding 16% equity share apiece. Andrew and Kelly Clarke, Dave and Nat Wilson, Rob and Moira Anstis, and Colin and Maria Eggleton are all born and bred in Opotiki and knew a good investment when they saw one.

Cam, 28, and Jess, 27, sold their house, their nice vehicle and their boat to put $75,000 into the equity partnership and borrowed the rest to buy the Jersey herd that was already on the farm. . . 

Collins family’s long history of dairying – Julia Evans:

The Collins family celebrated 150 years of farming in Springston on Saturday. Julia Evans speaks to Murray Collins about his family who have lived and worked the land and their roots in the newspaper industry.

There’s Murray and Judy, their daughter Jenny and grandchildren Elsie, Henry and Leila.

Those are the three generations of the Collins family currently living on Springston’s Pendah Farm, which has celebrated 150 years of operation.

But before them there was William, Walter, Leslie and Jack Collins.

William was a typographer who sailed to New Zealand from the United Kingdom in 1850, after working for the London Morning Post.

Though he did not settle in Canterbury. . . 

Government should fund fire research:

The National Party is calling on the Government to fund potentially lifesaving research into preventing rural fires, National’s Research, Science and Innovation spokesperson Parmjeet Parmar says.

“Crown Research Institute Scion, which specialises in forestry science, is involved in creating a new fire spread model and investigating new extreme fire prevention methods.

This includes developing new response technologies to prevent and suppress extreme fires,” Dr Parmar says.

“I’m calling on the Government to give Scion the security it needs of $3 million a year so it can continue research and come up with new models to suppress wildfires. This research has previously come from contestable funds but there is no security with that funding. . . 

Cows and climate change: A closer look – Andre Mayer:

The extent to which meat production contributes to climate change is hotly contested. We highlighted some of the concernsin our last issue, but heard from some readers who felt it didn’t convey the full picture.

Earlier this year, when U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez first started promoting the Green New Deal — the Democratic proposal to mobilize government to address climate change and income inequality — she made comments about the significant impact of “cow farts” on carbon emissions.

That concerned Frank Mitloehner, an esteemed animal science professor at the University of California, Davis, who tweeted at AOC, telling the rookie lawmaker that “meat/milk” was only responsible for four per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. . . 


Following not making history

December 5, 2016

A strong candidate and well-ordered campaign weren’t enough to make history on Saturday.

A sitting government has never won a by-election in a seat held by the Opposition and Mt Roskill voters weren’t going to change that.

That National won the party vote in the general election two years ago was irrelevant. It’s a red seat and voting reflected that.

Labour’s Michael Wood, helped by the absence of Green and New Zealand First candidates, won the with 11,170 votes, well ahead of National’s Parmjeet Parmar who got 4,652. The counting of special votes isn’t going to make much difference.

The result brought a good end to a bad week for Labour with two polls giving them at best 28% support and at worst 23%.

But they shouldn’t get too excited.

Maurice McTigue won Timaru for National in the 1985 by-election but Labour increased its support in the 1987 election. More recently, the Labour candidate won Christchurch East in 2013 but National won the party vote in that seat a year later.

Roshan Nauhria, leader of the newly formed NZ People’s Party, got 709 votes on Saturday.

He too should learn from history which shows how difficult it is for a new party to win seats unless it has the advantage of a sitting MP who has changed allegiance.

 

 

 


Bribe-O-Meter relaunched

October 31, 2016

National has a lot to gain from winning the Mt Roskill by-election and Labour is already showing it knows it has a lot to lose:

The Mt Roskill by-election campaign has hardly started and Labour has already shown how desperately worried they are about losing it, National Party Campaign Chair Steven Joyce says. 

“Labour are hitting the panic button fairly early on,” Mr Joyce says. “Promising a $1.4 billion rail link between the electorate and the city looks very desperate.” 

“This is taking pork barrel politics to a whole new level. If this is the sticker price for a Labour party by-election campaign, all the other electorates across New Zealand will be asking for their $1.4 billion. To say nothing of every other electorate in Auckland looking for multi-billions in new railway lines.  And we’ve still got more than a month to go.”

Mr Joyce noted that the Labour party is promising Auckland ratepayers will pay for part of their by-election bribe. “I’m assuming the new Mayor of Auckland is okay with Andrew Little saying the city has got a lazy $700 million lying around at the same time Mr Goff is out there saying the Council is short of money.”

Mr Joyce says Labour would be better off promoting their candidate as a possible MP for Mt Roskill. “This is Mr Wood’s third attempt to become an MP. You think they would be putting in the effort making him look electable rather than highlighting how worried they are he’ll lose.

“The Mt Roskill by-election will be about who is the best person to represent the electorate in Parliament. 

“Parmjeet Parmar is already showing the people of Mt Roskill that she is a hardworking conscientious MP who will be a strong diligent voice for Mt Roskill in Wellington. All this announcement today underlines is that Labour are worried sick that the people of Mt Roskill will choose her over their candidate.”   

These comments show National has learned from mistakes made in the Northland by-election.

 

And it’s just as well because the Taxpayers’ Union is counting the cost of any promises made:

The Taxpayers’ Union is relaunching its election Bribe-O-Meter to keep track of politicians’ pork-barrel promises in the lead up to the Mt Roskill by-election. Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“While the by-election is for a single Parliamentary seat, the cost of pork-barrel promises impact the pockets of all New Zealand taxpayers.”

“Labour has run roughshod over Auckland Council and the NZTA’s cost-benefit planning processes. Its pledge to spend $1.4 billion on light rail risks an expensive bidding war with the Government – with the cost landing on taxpayers.”

“The Bribe-O-Meter is to provide transparency and accountability for what those promises will cost.”

The Mt Roskill Bribe-O-Meter will be hosted online at www.taxpayers.org.nz.

In a by-election voters can, as they do with their electorate vote in a general election, choose the person they think will best represent them and pay less attention to parties.

The more Labour promises to spend, the more it will be showing it lacks confidence it its candidate.

 


Opposition down one, can National make that permanent?

October 10, 2016

When Phil Goff resigns from parliament the Opposition will be one vote down, putting National back in the position it was immediately after the election and before it lost Northland when New Zealand First gained another MP.

National list MP Parmjeet Parmar is expected to win the party’s selection for a candidate to contest the by-election.

If she were to win the seat National would gain another list MP which would make it easier than it is at present to get legislation passed.

How likely is that?

National won the party vote in the seat in the last election and Labour’s candidate Michael Woods won’t have anywhere near the name-recognition that Goff had.

But a government has never won a seat from the opposition in a by-election.

The Green Party’s decision to not stand a candidate will help Labour and the waters will be muddied by the candidacy of  newly formed People’s Party leader Roshan Nauhria to contest the election.

History shows new parties rarely attract much support. The question is: will any support Nauhria does attract will split the opposition vote or be at National’s expense?

Labour has the most to lose. Failing to hold the seat wouldn’t only leave the Opposition one seat down, it would be a huge blow to its fight to continue looking like a major party with any chance of leading a future government.

National has less to lose and a lot to gain.

History is against it, but a strong candidate and a campaign to match make a win possible although it’s too soon to say if that’s probable.

 


‘Woodn’t’ it be loverly

August 31, 2016

All I want is a seat somewhere/ I don’t care if it’s there or here/ Epsom, Roskill/I could if voters will/ ‘Woodn’t’ it be loverly?

Michael Wood stood for Labour in Epsom at the last election with no hope of winning the seat.

A lot of would-be MPs do that. It shows the party they’re committed and is good practice for if or when they’re given a chance in a seat they could win.

He’s now been selected as the Labour candidate for Mt Roskill to succeed Phil Goff  either if he wins the Auckland Mayoralty or when he retires at the next election.

It is expected to be a tight race. National won the party vote in the electorate at the last election and will have a strong candidate in list MP Parmjeet Parmar.

Enter the Green Party stage left.

The party could be prepared to do a deal with Labour and not stand a candidate.

That’s were it gets a bit whiffy because both those parties have lost no opportunity to criticise what they call ‘dirty deals’ in other seats, including Epsom about which Wood said in 2014:

“We are calling for a straight contest and an end to the dodgy deals.”

. . . In fact he went as far as bringing a bag of flour along to debates to replace National candidate Paul Goldsmith who stepped aside to make way for ACT’s David Seymour.

“Every time that Paul Goldsmith fails to front in this campaign, we’re going to remind people about the dirty deal with this bag of wholemeal flour,” Wood said on The Nation’s Epsom debate. . .

He told The Nation that voters were sick of dirty deals. . . .

It won’t be easy for Wood – he needs the “dirty deal” he once supposedly despised.

My question is who is bringing the bag of Quinoa to debates to stand in for the Greens?

The Green candidate got 1682 votes at the last election. Even some of those could make the difference in a tight race.

Wood could well find himself falling off his high horse on what he used to think were ‘dirty deals’ if it’s going to give him a leg-up to the seat.


Parmjeet Parmar’s maiden speech

October 29, 2014

National MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar delivered her maiden speech yesterday:

Thank you Mr Speaker.

Esteemed guests and colleagues, friends and family.  I will start by offering my congratulations to the Prime Minister and the National team for securing a historic win and a well-deserved third term. And may I also congratulate all new Ministers and MPs, And, Mr Speaker, you on your re-election.

It truly is an honour and a privilege to be part of this high performing team and to serve my fellow New Zealanders. I would like to especially thank our leader, the Rt Hon John Key for being a source of inspiration to me, and many other New Zealanders.

I would like to acknowledge the National Party leadership team, especially President Peter Goodfellow, board members Alastair Bell and Malcolm Plimmer, Northern regional chair Andrew Hunt and former regional chair Alan Towers.

Thank you to Hon Paula Bennett, Hon Maurice Williamson, Belinda Milnes and Ele Ludemann for their encouragement and support.

To my campaign chair and team especially Diana Freeman, Gavin Logan and Rita Ven Pelt – thank you. A special thanks to our volunteers and the Young Nats – you all are amazing individuals. And I’m also thankful for the tremendous welcome that I received from the community.

As my colleagues will agree, none of this would have been possible without the support of my family. My husband Ravinder Parmar has given unwavering support, and thanks to our boys Jagmeet, who turned 18 a week before the election and voted the first time, and Abhijeet, who is 12 and very eager to become a teenager!

Earlier this year I was chosen by the party as the candidate for the Mt Roskill electorate, and I am extremely proud to have repaid their faith in me by winning the critical party vote in Mt Roskill.

Now, I am a list MP who has the privilege of looking after the Mt Roskill electorate. About 39 per cent of the residents in Mt Roskill are of Asian ethnicity – which is more than three times the national average of 11.8 per cent.

Just under half of the people in Mt Roskill in 2013 – were born overseas, and I am one of them. 

Mt Roskill reflects the growing diversity of our country, and it is clear that the National Party reflects that diversity. Mt Roskill is comprised of small businesses, professionals and hardworking people looking to get ahead in life. I can assure them that my values, and those of the National Party align with their goals and aspirations.

Mr Speaker, I was born in India, one of four sisters to very hard working parents.

My father, Sham Jaswal – is now retired after proudly serving in the Indian Air Force for 38 years. As you would expect, our home environment mirrored the morals, virtues and also the discipline of the armed forces. Actually, I am grateful to my dad for that.

My mother, Kuldeep Jaswal, looked after the family, and I spent my early years traveling with my parents from one Air Force base to another.

Those early years of changing schools every three to four years and moving between different Air Force bases in different states of India helped me learn about different cultures and lifestyles and also taught me how to make friends quickly. I remember it being a very busy time.

Mr Speaker, both of my parents worked hard to raise us, and to provide for us. And like many of my colleagues, education was extremely important in my family.

I remember during my final years at school the exciting new field of biochemistry becoming a proper subject and a popular topic of discussion at school, which attracted me to study biochemistry.

I left school wanting to become a scientist to find cures for deadly diseases so I completed a BSc chemistry and MSc from the University of Poona, India. During this time studying biochemistry, I realised the importance of gene cloning strategies to identify the cause or causes of diseases and I decided to do my PhD in this field.

But then, as is traditional in my culture, I married Ravinder in an arranged marriage, and came to this amazing country to join him and start a new life with him in New Zealand.

On arriving here in 1995 and settling into life in Auckland, I wanted to continue my education at the University of Auckland.

I was lucky enough to find Associate Professor Nigel Birch at the University of Auckland to supervise my PhD – he is one of New Zealand’s great scientists and he played an important role in making me a scientist.

To be technical for a minute, for my PhD I investigated a possible role for neuroserpin in neurite outgrowth by its over-and under-expression in two types of cell lines.

Neuroserpin is a serine protease inhibitor predominantly expressed in neuronal cells during the late stages of neurogenesis and in the adult brain during synaptic plasticity.

The result of my research suggested a new role for neuroserpin in neurite outgrowth in-vitro, and my published papers highlighted the physiological importance of neuroserpin with emphasis on its role in neurite outgrowth, neurite regeneration and maintenance in the nervous system.

Simplified, my work looked at if it was possible to use it to re-establish connections in the brain.

My post-doctoral work built further on this research, and then later moving into researching on retinitis pigmentosa – an inherited degenerative eye disease that causes progressive vision loss.

By this time while working as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Auckland I felt it was time to put my training into a more practical realm and decided to move into the commercial sector.

After spending some time in the scientific commercial sector I decided to use my skills to move into business and joined my husband to start up natural health products manufacturing within our existing facility that was being run by Ravinder to make confectionery and chocolate products.

My days in business were focused on product development, improving efficiencies and productivity, and providing that best possible work environment for our staff.

My time in my manufacturing business gave me an in depth understanding of our local and international markets, our food manufacturing sector, our regulations, and how we compare with international markets and how manufacturing in New Zealand is distinctive from other countries.

Our local innovation keeps us one step ahead in the business world. We Kiwis are innovative people and full of ideas to start businesses. While owning and running a business is stressful, busy and often intense, it is also rewarding. I am eager to work for our dynamic business owners so their hard work pays off and that their great responsibility is recognised.

Like my family, I have always believed in hard work.

Monday to Friday I was a scientist and then later a business woman, and in the weekends I worked as a broadcaster for 16 years on an Indian radio station in Auckland plus of course my role on the Families Commission and the Film and Video Labelling Body.

Somehow I managed to fit in raising our two boys, and putting in more than a decade working in the community especially in the field of domestic violence.

My values of strong caring families and communities, personal responsibility and equal citizenship and opportunities mirror that of the National Party.

During my time in this hallowed precinct, I am eager to make a positive difference in a number of areas.

Firstly, science and innovation, and in particular the conversion of science to business. We are producing very highly skilled scientists and I do not want New Zealand to be just a breeding ground for good scientists. We need to provide opportunities for them to explore their scientific vision in our homeland to attract more interest and retain that pride of good work.

We need to supercharge the activation of the amazing research that is currently underway in New Zealand institutions, and apply it to our businesses, our industries and our products. I believe there are huge potential advantages just waiting for New Zealand to seize them.

I am passionate about enabling and encouraging business.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy – 97 per cent of New Zealand businesses are small businesses.

If big corporates are doing well or otherwise we hear about it, but small businesses don’t often make the news, even though they make up a significant part of our economy.  They provide a career for those who value economic independence, they supply components and services to large companies and they contribute to innovation and invention – something that all economies require.

But behind every small business are a group of really hard working people in different industry sectors, and I think they need attention so they can keep making the contribution they are to our economy. I believe there is a lot more that needs to be done to help them thrive. I respect and admire courage of all business people out there and those entrepreneurs who are starting up new companies.

I believe in family values and in the need to mount a coordinated effort to stamp out domestic violence and build resilience and respect in family relationships.

For many years I have worked in this sector and have seen the impact of family violence on family members, communities and in the long run on societies. We cannot afford to skirt around this issue if we want to increase the quality of life for New Zealand families.

Plus it makes fiscal sense – family violence has been estimated to cost the equivalent of Canterbury earthquakes on our economy every year. Equally as important though, is the significant negative impact domestic violence has on children’s wellbeing, psychologically and socially.

As an advocate for gender equality I also believe in merit. I am a proud member of a party, and a caucus, that does not believe in a quota system for women. I am here purely on merit and I would not have it any other way. I think many other Kiwi women feel this way.

Equally, while I am proud of my Indian heritage, NZ is the only place I call home. I do not consider myself as just an ethnic MP. I consider myself to be an MP who brings many perspectives and experiences along with my ethnicity, which I will apply to the serious and important work of an MP in this House.

Mr Speaker, with a multi professional background as a scientist, business woman, community advocate, broadcaster, and mother and wife with strong family values I have come to the House determined to make a positive difference in the scientific world, business world and our communities.

I hope to use my professional background and my scientific background to simultaneously bring imagination and patience to my work here, as having learned that as a scientist that sometimes it takes multiple approaches to get an outcome.

As a business woman I bring the energy, drive and eagerness that is needed in a business person in order to see growth.

And as a community advocate that has worked in the heart wrenching field of domestic violence; I bring appreciation of the effort and hardships of our communities.

I am truly grateful to all the experiences in my life that gave me this opportunity to evolve into the person I am today.

Since becoming a New Zealander I have had 20 years of opportunities and I believe now, it is my turn to give back.

It’s a privilege and honour to be a member of a team that is working for New Zealand, the team led by Rt Hon John Key.

Thank you Mr Speaker.


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