Rural round-up

October 3, 2019

Gas targets will divide society – Alan Williams:

Alliance believes its Dannevirke sheep meat plant’s small size will let it survive a big fall in eastern North Island livestock numbers because of a loss of farmland to forestry.

If a similar change in land use happens in Southland the farmer-owned co-operative could be more exposed because the bigger operators in a region are likely to be most affected, chairman Murray Taggart said.

Anecdotal evidence indicates the scale of land use change could mean the loss of half a meat plant in the eastern North Island, he told shareholders in North Canterbury.

The industry believes taking out half a million stock units would essentially close down the equivalent of one plant, he told Farmers Weekly. 

The transparency of the scale of forestry interests buying farmland appears greater in the eastern North Island than in other regions.

It is possible the full extent of the loss of productive farmland might not be picked up until the damage is done. . . 

GM safe and we need it: plant biologists – Associate Professor Richard Macknight, Dr Lynette Brownfield, Associate Professor Paul Dijkwel, Associate Professor Michael Clearwater, Professor Paula Jameson and Dr Nijat Imin:

 A group of scientists belonging to the New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists say it’s time to review GM laws. They say new techniques in gene-editing can help ensure a clean green future for New Zealand.

When genetic modification technologies were newly-developed, people were rightly concerned that this relatively untested technology might harbour risks to health and the environment. So in the year 2000, the NZ government established a Royal Commission into the use of GM. After widespread and careful consultation, the commissioners’ report recommended an approach that preserved opportunities and that NZ should “proceed carefully, minimising and managing risks”. Specifically, around crop plants, the commissioners suggested New Zealand postpone any decision until more information had been obtained and the technology had developed.

The Royal Commission was nearly 20 years ago, so where do things now stand around crop plants?  . . 

Controversial red meat research bucks vegan diet trend recommendations – Stephanie Bedo:

As more people turn to eating less meat, new and “controversial” research gives you reason to return to red meat.

While the vegan trend has taken off, a series of reviews has found there are very few health benefits to cutting your meat consumption.

Based on a series of five high-quality systematic reviews of the relationship between meat consumption and health, a panel of experts recommends that most people can continue to eat red and processed meat at their average current consumption levels. . . 

Miraka pioneers farm carbon report :

Māori-owned milk processor Miraka is now reporting carbon emissions for each of its 100-plus supplier farms.

The Taupo company claims this as a first for New Zealand.

The farm-specific reports give detailed understanding of each farm’s greenhouse gas emissions and compare results between farms.

Miraka’s general manager of milk supply, Grant Jackson, says many of its farmers know little about their carbon footprint. . . 

A toast to the future – what we’ve learned from 200 years of New Zealand wine – Sarah Templeton & Lisette Reymer:

A birthday is always a time for reflection; a time to consider all you’ve achieved and what goals you’d want to tackle in the future.

I imagine that’s no more relevant than at a cool 200th – maybe one day I’ll know, if modern medicine does its thing. 

But believe it or not, this year we’re celebrating the 200th birthday of the New Zealand wine industry, which outdates even the Treaty of Waitangi. 

Aussie Reverend Samuel Marsden recorded September 25, 1819 as the day he first planted a vine in Kerikeri. The birthday was celebrated last week with the replanting of a vine in the same spot outside the Stone Store, accompanied by a celebration dinner and of course, a lot of wine.  . . 

Dutch tractor protest sparks ‘worst rush hour’ – Anna Holligan:

Tractor-driving farmers taking to the streets to demand greater recognition have caused the worst ever Dutch morning rush hour on Tuesday, according to motoring organisation ANWB.

There were 1,136km (700 miles) of jams at the morning peak, it said.

Farmers reacted angrily to claims that they were largely responsible for a nitrogen oxide emissions problem.

A report has called for inefficient cattle farms to be shut down and some speed limits lowered to cut pollution.

Farming groups believe they are being victimised while the aviation industry is escaping scrutiny. . . 


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 12, 2019

Changing GM policy will be good for the environment and Carbon Zero – Dr William Rolleston:

The Opportunities Party’s new policy on genetic modification(GM), which lines up with Australian law, has given New Zealand farmers hope that they too may be able to use genetic modification in their battle to improve water quality and mitigate climate change towards Carbon Zero.

During my time as Federated Farmers president, farmers, in response to scientific evidence, shifted their focus from increasing production to reducing our environmental footprint.  

We can continue to produce food and fibre while putting the least demand on our resources by improving productivity, benefiting both environment and farmer.  Local councils recognise this by regulating for environmental outcomes rather than blindly restricting inputs – for example, low water nitrogen targets rather than limiting fertiliser or cow numbers. . .

NZ embracing gene-editing is a ‘no-brainer’ – Geoff Simmons – Finn Hogan:

Successive New Zealand governments have been “deaf to developing science” says The Opportunities Party (TOP) leader Geoff Simmons.

TOP is calling for deregulation of a form of gene editing called CRISPR, a technique that can be used to remove undesirable traits from an organism or add desirable ones.

Gene editing (GE) could be used for things like removing the genetic trigger for cystic fibrosis in a person, making manuka more resilient to myrtle rust or helping kauri trees fight dieback. . .

African swine fever in China will affect NZ dairy sector: report – Sally Rae:

China’s devastating outbreak of African swine fever will have a spillover effect on the dairy sector, a new report by Rabobank says.

China is the world’s largest pork producer and accounts for about 50% of pork production globally.

The African swine fever epidemic was expected to reduce the country’s pork production by 25%-35%, resulting in increased demand for other animal proteins but lower demand for feedstuffs, the report said.

Rising demand for beef could constrain China’s milk production if dairy cow culling accelerated to fill some of the gap in animal protein demand. . .

From gate to plate’ farming on Country Calendar – Melenie Parkes:

When Ali and Dion Kilmister were looking to save on transport costs they bought their own stock truck, which Dion now drives. And when they wanted to sell their beef and lamb direct to customers, they set up their own online meat delivery business. 

With seven farms to run, the husband-and-wife team has had to rely on creativity and self-sufficiency. If there’s something they need, they make it a reality. 

Their farms are spread out across 200km from Dannevirke to Wellington. While operating over such a wide area has its problems, it also has distinct benefits.  . .

Bring on the tough challenges – Andrew Stewart:

Being the boss isn’t easy and it’s even harder going solo on tough hill country prone to long, cold winters and dry summers. But for Taihape farmer Mairi Whittle it’s her dream come true. Andrew Stewart called in to see how she’s getting on.

The Taihape to Napier highway is a sometimes snaky road surrounded by vast landscapes and prominent landmarks. 

Clean, green hills stretch as far as the eye can see and this strong farming country produces sought-after stock. 

But it can be a brutally challenging environment to farm in too. Winters at this altitude are long, cold and punctuated by snowfalls. Summers are becoming increasingly dry with rain far less dependable after the holiday period.  . .

Court rules dairy factory illegal:

SYNLAIT remains committed to its $250  million Pokeno factory despite a court decision that means the plant was built in breach of covenants restricting use of the land.

The milk powder maker says it is confident it can find a solution to the ownership problem now afflicting most of the land on which the factory stands because of the Court of Appeal decision.

That ruling effectively means the factory was built in breach of covenants on the land.
When Synlait bought the 28 hectares of land in February 2018 it was conditional on the seller, Stonehill Trustee, obtaining removal of that restricted its use to grazing, lifestyle farming or forestry
. . .

 


We need to talk about GM

September 24, 2018

We need to talk about genetic modification, former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says.

Sir Peter Gluckman says the debate over whether to use genetically edited grasses to combat greenhouse gas emissions is more philosophical than scientific.

It’s also more emotional and political than rational.

The former Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay about his report released this week in which he suggests New Zealand needs to have a “national conversation,” about using GMOs in agriculture.

“What I’ve raised in the report is just that if we’re serious about climate change, if we’re serious about environmental protection, if we’re serious about a reduction in predators and protecting biodiversity, we perhaps need to think again about whether the technologies which are increasingly being used offshore have got a role to play in New Zealand.” . . 

There are widespread calls for farmers to play their part in reducing emissions but many of those agitating for that are also opposed to allowing GM.

It is a tool widely used in other countries that is being denied to New Zealand farmers.

Mackay wonders if consumers will want to eat products from animals that have grazed on genetically modified grass, but Gluckman says this is already happening.

“Around the world consumers are eating lots of meat and lots of milk that are coming from genetically modified crops now … it’s been going on at least for a decade broadly around the world.”

It’s also in a lot of the food we’ve been eating for years. Most corn and soy that we import will have come from GM crops.

Gluckman says the issue is more “philosophical rather than a scientific debate” with a number of countries ruling that gene editing does not need the same regulatory controls as gene modification, but “other countries are not so certain.”

Gluckman believes there needs to be a discussion around the use of GM grasses before New Zealand begins testing them.

“I think that in theory it’s possible in New Zealand. It’s just that in practice it’s not possible and I think one would need a much broader national conversation to look through the issues which are largely more philosophical and values-based than they are scientifically based.”

We saw huge areas of corn when we were in Colorado and Nebraska on an IrrigationNZ tour 10 days ago.

All of it was genetically modified.

Farmers there have been producing GM crops for years with no problems in the field or in the market.

They told us it had both economic and environmental benefits. It yielded better and required fewer chemicals to grow.

AgResearch is trialing GM grass in the USA because it can’t do it here. The grass has the potential to make a significant reduction to methane emissions.

Opponents of the technology say it could risk our reputation for producing clean and green feed.

Surely the risk our competitors will be gaining the benefits of GM grass and marketing their meat as cleaner and greener is even greater.

Science is rarely 100% settled. But after decades of use in many countries there has been no evidence of any problems with GM that would put our farming at risk, and plenty of evidence of the benefits.

New Zealand needs to start talking about GM and the  conversation must be based on science and facts, not emotion and philosophy.


GM could be greener

July 2, 2018

Outgoing Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says it’s time to reignite the debate on genetic modification.

Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A this morning, Sir Peter told Corin Dann that debate needed to be more constructive and less polarising than it had been in the past.

“The science is as settled as it will be; that is, it’s safe, that there are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies. That does not mean that society automatically will accept them. And what we need is a conversation which we’ve not had in a long time, and it needs to be, I think, more constructive and less polarised than in the past,” he said.

“We’re facing issues of biosecurity; we’re facing issues of predators and the desire to be predator-free; we’re facing the fact that our farming system needs to change because of the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas emissions, the water quality issues, etcetera. We are, fundamentally, a biologically-based economy.

“Now, the science is pretty secure, and science can never be absolute. And everything about life is about rational decisions with some degree of uncertainty. But the uncertainty here is minimal to nil, very, very low. I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” . . 

Anyone who thinks New Zealand is GM free is dreaming.

While GM is tightly controlled here, there is nothing to stop food with GM ingredients being imported and  imported corn and soy products are just two which are likely to have GM components.

Jo Goodhew said in her valedictory statement:

. . .  it is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms to our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection. Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more. The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science. . . 

GM has been around for decades with no evidence of harm to human health or the environment.

GM has the potential to improve human and animal health; food production, reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and provide safer alternatives for disease, weed and pest control than conventional products.

GM could be a greener solution to many problems if, to paraphrase Jo, the debate moved from fear of the unknown to safe and proven science.


Rural round-up

February 16, 2018

Drought, disruption undermines farmers’ confidence:

A marked drop in farmer optimism and growing concern about the ability to recruit suitable staff are stand-out features of the Federated Farmers Mid-Season Farm Confidence Survey.

For the first time in two years, farmer optimism has decreased, including negative perceptions of the economy, farm profitability, farm production and farm spending. Farm debt levels have also increased and fewer farms are now debt-free.

The Federated Farmers survey is conducted by Research First twice a year (January and July) and 1070 farmers responded to the questionnaire last month. . . 

Time to get real about forestry – Graham West:

Last year I commented on the high returns from current harvesting, however I don’t believe this is being translated into significant interest in new planting, certainly not at the rate of the governments aspirational target of 50,000ha per year. The Crown Forestry action is clearly around doing deals to secure land for leasing and other deal makers, like Toitu Te Waonui, and various forestry consultants, are doing the same, good on them.

But this doesn’t really raise the general awareness of the forestry business opportunity for land owners and investors. The challenge is how to create a pipe line of prospects who are considering land use change. The target group must be the approximately 25,000 drystock farmers in New Zealand, owning 9.5m hectares. The timeline is also important, seedlings for next winter are already booked, but the deadline for orders to secure plants for the following winter (2019) needs to be placed with nurseries by Oct-Nov 2018. . . 

Minister needs to step up as drought worsens in Coastal Taranaki:

The Minister for Primary Industries needs to step up and listen to the rural sector in the face of the worsening drought in Coastal Taranaki, National’s Rural Communities Spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

Mrs Kuriger reached out to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor last week to discuss ideas put forward by the Taranaki Rural Support Trust, but the Minister has not accepted the invitation to meet.

“It would seem that the response by the Minister – since initially declaring the drought – has been to bury his head in the sand on the Coastal Taranaki issue. . . 

Govt passing the cap around primary industry:

The Government is going cap-in-hand to the primary sector seeking support to help eradicate the rapidly-spreading cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis, National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“It’s my understanding that the Ministry for Primary Industries is canvassing the dairy and red meat industry for contributions to fund the response and eradication of this disease.

“In Parliament yesterday the Minister Damien O’Connor couldn’t say how much money the Government is prepared to contribute to fully eradicate Mycoplasma Bovis.

“Knowing how tight the Government’s finances are because of its other big-spending commitments – and even with financial contributions from industry – Mr O’Connor has an uphill battle convincing his Cabinet colleagues how critical funding of over $100 million actually is,” Mr Guy says. . . 

National welcomes continuation of 1080 policy:

A reassurance from the Department of Conservation (DOC) that there has been no change in policy over the use of 1080 poison is welcome, National’s Conservation Spokesperson Maggie Barry says.

“At today’s annual review the Director General, Lou Sanson, reassured the Environment Select Committee that not only has there been no change in 1080 policy, but DOC expects to expand its use.

“This approach is critical to achieving National’s long term Predator-Free NZ by 2050 vision. Possums, rats and stoats kill 25 million birds a year, and if DOC was hamstrung from using 1080, we would see further unique species becoming extinct. . . 

Regulator asks how gene-edited food should be treated:

Planning for future GM foods coming down the line, the food safety regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is calling for suggestions for how it should consider applications for foods that have been made using new genetic techniques that aren’t currently covered by their laws.

The current code only covers food produced by genetic techniques that add DNA into a genome and doesn’t cover newer gene editing techniques like CRISPR/Cas9 which knock out genes or proteins, or others that don’t change the DNA of the final food product.

FSANZ are asking for submissions on how these newer techniques should be assessed before they go to market. Options range from treating them like conventional breeding techniques – given a green light once a technique has been proved safe – or to be treated like current genetically modified organisms which would mean that each application requires a rigorous safety assessment. . . 

Golden Rice: Loved by humanitarians, reviled by environmentalists – Green Jihad *

Despite the Philippines and Bangladesh edging toward commercializing it, New Zealand’s food regulation agency (FSANZ) endorsed approving importing Golden Rice for sale in order to reduce trade disorder with Asian countries that allow it.

Unfortunately, an opposition group named GE-Free New Zealand has started an effort urging New Zealand’s food safety minister to review the FSANZ’s recommendation in hopes of eventually halting the importation of Golden Rice. The organization’s views are nearly in line with what environmentalist groups, like Greenpeace, have been claiming about GMO’s for years.

Golden Rice has been a vital source of nutrition for many people in developing countries who lack Vitamin A that humans need to help them survive. Sadly, environmentalist groups are undaunted in halting not only the dissemination of Golden Rice and all other GMO’s but their production too. This being done so that more humans die of starvation or illness resulting from malnutrition due to a reduction in the food supply. . . 

Sustainable ag series – farmers – Dirt to dinner:

The agriculture industry is often criticized for using too much water, using too many chemicals, and adding more carbon to the atmosphere.

However, farmers have their boots on the ground and occupy the front lines of sustainability initiatives within agriculture. No farms, no food!

While some farmers employ better approaches to farming sustainably, no farmer deliberately damages human or environmental health or wants to waste their inputs, such as water, pesticide, and labor. As stewards of the land, it is in a farmer’s best interest to preserve all of their resources for future generations of farming. . . 

* (Hat tip: Utopia):


Rural round-up

February 13, 2018

Crown Forestry offering farmers deal to plant pines – Andrew McRae:

Crown Forestry is chasing unproductive farmland suitable for commercial planting of pinus radiata to help it meet the government’s one billion trees program.

The 10-year target will require new planting to cover 500,000 hectares.

Farmers and other landowners with at least 200ha to spare are being asked by Crown Forestry, a business unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries, to consider the offer.

Land owners are being offered a lease or joint-venture option with Crown Forestry paying all establishment and management costs, paying rent to the land owner and allowing any carbon credits to be retained.

The land would need to pass a few other tests, such as being reasonably fertile, have easy access and be identified as suitable for production forestry. . . 

Champion pair marching towards the Golden Shears:

Reigning Golden Shears champions Rowland Smith and Joel Henare loom as possibly the hottest favourites to win again this year after dominating the major events at the 58th Otago Shearing and woolhandling championships in Balclutha.

The two young dads have each been competing in the top class since their teens, and in The Balclutha Memorial Town Hall on Saturday 31-year-old Smith blitzed even reigning World champion and New Zealand teammate John Kirkpatrick to win the Otago Open shearing title and head New Zealand to a test-match win over Wales, while Henare, 26, won both the New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year and Southern Circuit woolhandling titles.

Smith’s Otago championships was his 8th in a row in the four weeks since his last blemish, when he failed to qualify for the final at the Tauranga show on January 14. But he’s had 31 wins in finals in a row in New Zealand since he was fourth at the Rotorua A and P Show in January last year. . . 

Ship and cargo causing a helluva stink for farmers:

Federated Farmers is calling on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to hold firm on a shipment which has been previously turned away from the Ports of Auckland.

The vessel, carrying motor vehicles from Japan, was deemed a biosecurity risk after the discovery of over 100 brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB).

As no port in New Zealand has the capacity to fumigate the ship, it has been subsequently re-routed to Australia.

“That ship and its cargo should not be allowed anywhere near our shoreline until we have assurances that it is comprehensively fumigated with all the marmorated stink bugs destroyed,” says Guy Wigley, Federated Farmers’ Biosecurity Spokesperson. . . 

Rural Life reporter made Youth Ambassador :

Southern Rural Life journalist Nicole Sharp is the Southland A&P Show’s John Robins Youth Ambassador for 2018.

The John Robins Youth Ambassador is awarded each year in the memory of the late John Robins, who was  passionate about getting young people involved with the Southland A&P Show.

Miss Sharp was presented with the award by Mr Robins’ wife Joyce, at a function at Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill,  on Sunday, commemorating 150 years of the A&P show.

The John Robins Youth Ambassador position was established as a way of encouraging youth to become involved in the show. . . 

Choosing technology to enhance sustainability – Terry Wanzek:

I choose to grow genetically modified crops on my farm for a simple reason: sustainability.

These products of modern science make me more economically and environmentally sustainable, allowing me to grow more food on less land, benefitting my family, consumers, and the wider world.

My 84-year-old father helps me put things in perspective. He worked this land before my brother and I did, teaching us the value of hard work and the art of agriculture.

Back in his heyday, he mostly grew wheat.  Today’s biotechnology has allowed us to expand our crop choices to more corn and soybeans, along with wheat.  My father was delighted when an acre produced 80 bushels of corn. Today, that would be an economic calamity – worse than letting the land lie fallow. We like to see an acre produce at least 150 bushels, are pleased when it hits 170, and always hope for more. . . 

https://twitter.com/FAOKnowledge/status/961725791787773952

Hundreds turn up to sheep milking events:

New Zealand’s dairy sheep industry took a big step forward when a major investment in genetic improvement and farm system development was formally launched at Waikino Station on the western shores of Lake Taupo. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by dozens of potential investors and distributors from overseas, and a farmer open day attracted 300, including rural bankers and accountants.

The investment has been made by the Chinese partner in the Maui Milk joint venture with local dairy sheep pioneers, the Waituhi Kuratau Trust, whose farm also borders the lake. The JV has milked 3000 ewes on that property since 2015 and lessons learned are being implemented in the green-field development at Waikino Station which adds another 2000 ewes to the tally. . . 


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