Rural round-up

September 28, 2018

NZ farmer confidence slides into negative territory– Rabobank:

New Zealand farmer confidence has eased from the previous quarter and is now at net negative levels for the first time since early 2016.

The third quarterly survey for the year – completed earlier this month – has shown net farmer confidence has fallen to -three per cent, down from +two per cent recorded in the June 2018 survey.

The survey found a fall in the number of farmers expecting agricultural economy conditions to improve in the coming 12 months (down to 20 per cent from 26 per cent last quarter) as well as those expecting conditions to worsen (23 per cent from 24 per cent previously) while an increased number of New Zealand farmers were expecting the performance of the agricultural economy to stay the same (54 per cent from 46 per cent last survey). . .

Room for improvement despite progress on M. bovis awareness:

Survey shows room for improvement despite progress on M. bovis awareness

More than half of sheep and beef farmers have made changes to reduce the risk of their stock becoming infected by Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis), according to research by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

57 per cent of farmers recently surveyed reported they had taken precautions against the disease while 71 per cent of farmers feel that they have a high level of knowledge on how to protect their stock from M. bovis.

Around a third of farmers surveyed (34 per cent) said they had implemented a buffer zone between them and their neighbours’ stock, as well as communicating with their neighbours about stock on the boundary. . . 

A jigsaw with bits missing – Annette Scott:

Mycoplasma bovis had a head-start on officials trying to eradicate it but Nait is helping them catch up.

While Nait is not perfect it has enabled the eradication attempt that otherwise might not have been possible, Ministry for Primary Industries intelligence group manager Alix Barclay says.

That head-start has, over time, meant changes to the design of surveillance and how it is implemented, Barclay said.

The intelligence team is responsible for tracing the disease, surveillance, targeting of sampling, data management and the diagnostic laboratory systems. . . 

Westland Milk’s payout at low end of guidance; cuts 2019 forecast – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Westland Milk Products has cut its forecast for the 2019 season due to weak global butter prices and announced a farmgate return near the bottom end of guidance.

New Zealand’s third-largest dairy company said its final milk payout for the 2018 season was $6.12 per kilo of milk solids, less a 5 cent retention. That delivered a net average result for shareholders of $6.07 per kgMS. The cooperative had forecast a payout of $6.10 to $6.40 and the retention enabled it to report a pre-tax profit of $3.3 million for the 12 months ended July 31. . .

Tatua Financial Results for the Year Ended 31 July 2018:

The Tatua Board or Directors and Executive met on 26 September 2018 to consider the financial results for the 2017/18 season and decide on the final payout to our Suppliers. We are pleased to report that Tatua has had a good year and has achieved record Group revenue of $357 million, and earnings of $127 million.

Our focus on growing our value-add businesses has contributed significant additional revenue and our bulk ingredient product mix has served us well. . .

Selling bulls but keeping semen rights – Alan Williams:

Te Mania Stud is looking for sons of its sale-topping Australian sire to move the Angus breed forward.

Starting this year the stud is keeping a 50% interest in the semen of all the bulls it sells.

“This keeps us protected if one of the bulls comes through with brilliant traits and we can get that semen back to use through our dam line,” stock manager Will Wilding said.

The deal involves only semen sales. There’s no income-share when buyers use the bulls for physical mating.

Semen from Te Mania Garth was brought from Australia and used to breed the top-priced rising  . .

2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards entries open October 1st:

With less than a week until entries open in the 2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, organisers of the regional competitions are gathering in Rotorua for the annual conference to fine tune processes and launch events.

General Manager Chris Keeping says the conference is an opportunity for the many volunteers from around the country to come together after a busy winter season. “The conference will be a busy few days, bringing everyone up-to-date with the changes made to the entry criteria and visa requirements,” she says. . .

On the brink of innovative Ag technology acceptance: A Kenyan farmer’s perspective – Gilbert Arap Bor:

Farmers have good years and bad years. Here in Kenya, however, the good years never have seemed quite as good as they should be and the bad years have felt worse than necessary.

That’s because we can’t take advantage of a tool that farmers in much of the developed world take for granted: GMO crops. In many countries, they’ve transformed farming, helping farmers contend with weeds, pests, and drought. In my country, we’re still languishing in the 20th century, waiting for the arrival of this 21st-century technology.

We may in fact be on the brink of embracing innovative technology for agriculture, but the long and winding road to this welcome destination has been full of frustration and false starts. We’ve been at it for an entire generation. Africa already faces plenty of problems: poverty, climate change, a poor infrastructure, political instability, corruption and more. So the failure of Kenya and most other African nations to take up GMOs is especially painful because this problem is almost entirely self-imposed. . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 21, 2018

Crop biotech 3.0: a farmer’s perspective – Craige Mackenzie:

Here in New Zealand, we did not participate in the GE Gene Revolution. Farmers like me see an advantage in making sure that we do not miss the next one. 

You’ve seen the statistics. Farmers around the world have planted and harvested billions of acres of genetically engineered crops. Not long ago, we used to talk about GMOs and conventional crops as if they belonged in different categories. Increasingly—and especially in North and South America—GMOs are the new conventional. They’ve become an ordinary part of agriculture. 

Some nations, of course have resisted the use of GMOs, starting with members of the European Union. New Zealand has taken its own wait-and-see approach, turning it into a sort of permanent delay. The science on GMOs safety to human health and our environment may be settled but my country has wanted to preserve its clean-green image in food production, in the belief that this gives us a competitive advantage as we market ourselves to the world.  . . 

Eradicating cattle disease M. bovis in New Zealand may be costly, even impossible, but we must try – Riachard Laven:

In May this year, the New Zealand government decided that it would attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease that affects cattle.

A phased eradication means that an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled, at an estimated cost of NZ$886 million.

Here’s what we know, what we don’t know and what’s at stake.

How do we know this is a new incursion?

M. bovis causes mastitis and arthritis in adult cattle and pneumonia in calves. It is found around the world, but New Zealand was one of the last disease-free countriesuntil the detection of infected cows on a dairy farm in July 2017.  . .

Career path judged correctly – Sally Rae:

Brooke Flett never intended a career in farming.

But now, settled on the family dairy farm at Scotts Gap in Southland, it was “working out all right”.

“Most of the time, I love it,” she laughed.

Miss Flett (26), who is chairwoman of Thornbury Young Farmers Club, was recently named Young Farmers national stock-judging champion.

She grew up on the farm and boarded at Southland Girls’ High School before studying at Victoria University for a bachelor of arts in education.

But it “never really clicked” and she did not pursue a career in that area. .

Farm sales and prices ease on year June but horticulture farms shine –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Farm sales fell 7 percent on the year in the three months to June and the median price per hectare was down 16.3 percent although horticulture farm prices continued to push higher, according to the Real Estate Institute.

Overall, 427 farms were sold in the three months ended June 30 from 459 farms in the same period a year earlier. Some 1,480 farms were sold in the year to June, down 17 percent on the year. . .

Software to keep containment’s out:

Fertiliser co-op Ballance will commercially launch a new farm environment planning tool, MitAgator, by spring.

Developed by Ballance and AgResearch, MitAgator measures the loss of four main farm contaminants — nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and E. coli.

New Zealand-wide trials are pointing to a launch by late September. . .

Deer velvet looking good in Asia

Long-term prospects for NZ velvet in the major Asian markets are looking positive says Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) Asia manager Rhys Griffiths.

“There has been an explosion in consumer demand for consumer-ready velvet-based products in Korea. Ten years ago this product category didn’t even exist,” he says.

“In the past six months, 23 new velvet-based healthy food products have been launched in Korea; the majority of them using NZ velvet. . .

Importers snap up cheap U.S. soybeans as China stops buying – Karl Plume:

China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans, threatened for weeks and enacted Friday, have driven down prices and triggered a wave of bargain shopping by importers in other countries stocking up on cheap U.S. supplies, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.

Chinese buyers have so far this year accounted for just 17 percent of all advanced purchases of the fall U.S. soybean harvest – down from an average of 60 percent over the past decade, the analysis found. They are instead loading up on Brazilian soybeans, which now sell at a premium of up to $1.50 a bushel as U.S. soybean futures have fallen 17 percent over six weeks to about $8.50, their lowest level in nearly a decade. . .

The rise of soil carbon cowboys – Peter Byck:

Ranching is a rare occupation. Rarer still are the ranchers pioneering new ways to graze cattle, transforming their ranches and farms into vibrant ecosystems, producing black ink for their bank accounts and giving their incredibly robust animals a great life (with the exception of one bad day).

These new grazing methods have many names — mob grazing, managed intensive grazing, holistic management. Our group of scientists and ranchers call it Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) Grazing.  . .


Rural round-up

December 11, 2017

Once a day switch reaps benefit in intensive farming system – Gerald Piddock:

Dave Swney’s decision to switch his younger cows to once a day (OAD) milking has paid dividends with better animal health and reproductive performance.

The contract milker decided this year to put his younger cow herd on OAD immediately after calving to try and reduce lameness, which had been a massive challenge on the 124 hectare farm.

“A lot of our decisions this year have been based around lame cows. It’s the one area we really wanted to focus on and we feel that if we can get that right, then a lot of other benefits are going to come from that.” . . 

Farmers need more rain soon – Annette Scott:

Drought fears are growing as farmers across the country suggest they could be in big trouble if it doesn’t rain before Christmas.

Many farmers were reporting lower than usual cuts of balage and silage with others pushing stock off early to processors.

For deer farmers a dry early summer was a real challenge because it coincided with the fawn drop and the need of hinds for lush, high-quality feed for lactation and maximum fawn growth. . . 

Stock flood fears – Alan Williams:

Meat processing plants have become very busy in the last two weeks as farmers react to very dry conditions by unloading stock but it’s just become a typical season for this time of year, the companies say.

Plants were working overtime and on Saturdays and livestock backlogs were starting to build-up.

“Two weeks ago I would have said the season was slow but now it’s up to normal,’’ Anzco Foods general manager of agriculture and livestock Grant Bunting said.

“It usually happens about now.”

However, the change had been sudden and three to four weeks ago farmers who usually had a weaning draft were contemplating finishing lambs themselves. . . 

Farmers Fast Five – Beverley Forrester:

The Farmers Fast Five: Where we ask a Farmer five quick questions about Farming, and what Agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Glenmark Rural Women’s Branch President, Yarn Producer, Exporter, Author, Fashion Designer and Proud Farmer Beverley Forrester.

1.How long have you been Farming?

All of my life: 66 years. Brought up on the 4th generation family farms Warkworth, North Auckland, and is still run now by my sister and myself. Since 1986 I have been in Hawarden, North Canterbury, on what is also a 4th generation family farm with which we won the 2006 New Zealand Century Farm and Station Award.

2.What sort of farming are you involved in? 

Farming sheep (natural coloured chemical free wool), cattle and tourists. I have a yarn production and export business in yarn and livestock. . . 

Farmers Fast Five – Jonathan Carden-Holdstock:

The Farmers Fast Five: Where we ask a Farmer five quick questions about Farming, and what Agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Vice President of The Canterbury Dairy Goat Breeders Association and Proud Farmer Jonathan Carden-Holdstock, pictured here with his wife, Proud Farmer Chris Carden-Holdstock.

1. How long have you been farming?

I grew up on and around small traditional family run dairy farms near the Devon and Cornwall border in England. I went to Agricultural College in this area as well

2. What sort of farming were you involved in?

Mostly Dairy farming with the Holstein Friesian breed. We no longer supply Fonterra but still milk a small herd of Holsteins for calf rearing along with my wife’s Pedigree Saanen and Toggenburg Dairy Goats. The milk from this goes into calf rearing and soap. We have always had some beef cattle, I love the Red Devon breed as this was so common in the area I grew up in. . . 

Don’t tell me or others how to eat, pray and love – Mark Wilson:

Summer is BBQ time and what a glorious start to the BBQ season here in the Wakatipu. Add in some great Test cricket on the TV and the arrival of our latest shipment of Bainfield Road lamb from down south, the team at Arthurs Shore couldn’t be happier.

However, as each year goes by I feel a growing animosity towards the carnivores amongst us. It started but a whisper but, amplified by like-minded anti-meat and dairy campaigners banding together on social media and more support in mainstream media, it is now a full-blown movement of some size. . . 

No automatic alt text available.


Rural round-up

September 2, 2016

Fonterra on the eve of disruption – Fran O’Sullivan:

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings’ challenge ‘build windmills not walls’ is galvanising the dairy co-operative, writes Fran O’Sullivan.

Theo Spierings’ leadership has been tested as he re-engineers New Zealand’s biggest business during the tough times of a lengthy global commodity slump.

The story of how NZ dairy farmer incomes have plummeted, the company’s staff numbers have been slashed and hard calls made with its suppliers is well-traversed.

But behind the scenes there has been a fundamental refocusing of the company’s strategic operations which Spierings expects will result in a “strong picture” when he unveils Fonterra’s financial results late next month. . . 

Value-add products need a point of difference – Keith Woodford:

[This article was commissioned by the NZ Herald. It was written on 8 August 2016 and published on 31 August 2016. Since being written, some 24 days ago, we have seen substantial increases in dairy commodity prices, and in the short term (i.e. the forthcoming GDT dairy auction on 6 September GMT, and possibly subsequent auctions) these increases are likely to continue. However, the fundamentals remain unaltered; i.e commodities are highly volatile and will remain so, but there are also many traps for the unwary along the value-add path.]

There is increasing recognition within New Zealand that the dairy industry is in some trouble. Heading into a third year of low prices, questions have to be asked whether the industry is on a false path. And if so, where is the path back to firm ground?

Some will argue that the answers are simple: that we should reduce the dairy footprint on our land, and that we should focus on value-add. In reality, it is not that simple.

For those who live in the cities, it is easy to miss the importance of agribusiness to the overall economy. Much of New Zealand’s economic growth of the last 15 years is a direct consequence of a bountiful economic environment for agriculture in general and dairy in particular. . . 

GMO ruling frustrates biotech industry, farmers:

A lobby group representing New Zealand’s biotech industry fears further changes around the way genetically modified organisms are regulated could potentially force companies and scientists to shift overseas.

The High Court has upheld the Environment Court’s decision that local councils can have control over use and release of genetically modified organisms in their district.

The ruling was based on an appeal by Federated Farmers, which argued the release of GMOs was already regulated by the Environmental Protection Authority and local councils were not qualified to make such decisions.

But lobby group NZBIO chief executive Will Barker said the decision would come as a blow to the industry. . . 

Boat to change face of commercial fishing in NZ launched in Nelson:

A ceremony steeped in tradition was held in Nelson today to celebrate the launch of a boat that will change the face of commercial fishing in New Zealand.

The state-of-the-art vessel has been built for Tauranga-based fisherman Roger Rawlinson, of Ngati Awa descent. It has been named Santy Maria after his mother, who started the business with his father Bill more than 25 years ago.

The Santy Maria is the first vessel in Moana New Zealand’s $25-30 million fleet renewal project. It has been designed by Australian company OceanTech, with the technical expertise and vast fishing experience of Westfleet CEO Craig Boote, and constructed to the highest specifications by Aimex Service Group in Nelson. . . 

Seafood industry continues steady growth path:

The seafood industry continues to show strong growth with export earnings reaching $1.78 billion in the year to June, Seafood New Zealand’s Executive Chairman George Clement said today.

Speaking at the seafood industry’s annual conference, George Clement said the June result was an increase of $201 million on the same time last year, ”further demonstrating that we continue to make a significant contribution to the economy as one of the country’s main export earners,” he said.

“Last year industry accepted the Government’s aspirational goal of doubling export revenues by 2025 and we are on the growth path to achieve this,”
he said. . . 

The thirsty truth about avocados – Mitch McCann:

From Instagram to Pinterest, this is the golden age of avocados.

They’re so popular, the New Zealand industry’s earnings have doubled in the past three years.

Earlier this year avocado prices skyrocketed to around $4.50.

But now you can grab one for less than $2.

That’s because we’re into a bumper season, which may end up being New Zealand’s biggest ever.

But growing avocados takes a lot of water – much more than for things like potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce. . . 

Seeka announces the purchase of the Kiwi Crush™ and Kiwi Crushies™ product ranges from Vital Food Processors Ltd.:

Seeka Kiwifruit Industries (NZX-SEK), New Zealand’s and Australia’s largest kiwifruit grower, today announced the purchase of the Kiwi Crush and Kiwi Crushies product ranges from Auckland based Vital Food Processors Ltd (Vital Foods) for an undisclosed sum.

Kiwi Crush is a range of 100% natural kiwifruit based drinks that have since the early 1990s helped New Zealanders support and balance the digestive system. . . 

Hawkes Bay wine celebration reveals master class talent:

Two big names in the wine industry will be the hosts of the first-ever F.A.W.C! Masterclasses, at the Hawke’s Bay Wine Celebration.

A must-do event for wine lovers, when the cellar doors of 38 of the region’s finest wineries come together – the Hawke’s Bay Wine Celebration is being held in Auckland and Wellington next month. This is a unique opportunity to meet the winemakers while sampling award-winning wines. The event will showcase 50 Chardonnays, 38 Syrah, more than 30 Merlot Cabernet blends, as well as aromatic Riesling and Gewurztraminer through to newcomers Albarino, Tempranillo and luscious dessert wines. . . 


Rural round-up

July 7, 2016

Need for young blood – Peter Burke:

The aging population in agriculture is working against New Zealand, says Lincoln University’s Jon Hickford.

Speaking to Rural News at the Careers in Agriculture hub at Fieldays, Hickford says this is a huge problem, compounded by NZ’s rapid urbanisation and disconnection from the agri sector.

The problem now is to find enough good young people to work in agriculture.

“The problem across the western world is that young people are entirely urbanised and don’t realise the job opportunities out there on the land. In the case of NZ, agri defines our existence as a country. . . 

Cheap food has high price:

A Lincoln University expert is warning of the cost of focusing on producing food cheaply.  

A report into European farming policy ‘Does the CAP still fit’, co-authored by Lincoln University Professor of Farm Management Alison Bailey, says there is overwhelming evidence at local, national and global levels that food systems need to change.  

The paper was for the Food Research Collaboration on the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which provides support to Europe’s farmers. . . 

Feds support stance on GMOs by 107 world-leading scientists:

As more than 100 world-leading and award-winning scientists voice their support of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Federated Farmers continues to endorse farmers’ rights to decide what technologies are used on their farms.

Federated Farmers’ spokesperson Katie Milne said it’s clear that the long-term stance opponents have against all GMO is well and truly outdated and lacks scientific scrutiny.

“Federated Farmers recognises GMOs can provide many positive benefits to farmers and it’s up to individual farmers to decide whether to use GMOs or not. We have a neutral stance on this.

“Through GMOs farmers could have cows without horns or have the ability to not breed calves, there are many positive animal welfare outcomes for the industry,” said Ms Milne. . . 

Feds unveil guide to local government excellence:

See full Federated Farmers Local Government Manifesto here.

A best-practice, practical and common-sense approach to governance has been unveiled by Federated Farmers at its national conference in Wellington today.

Federated Farmers’ Local Government spokesperson Katie Milne said this tri-annual guide promotes the latest thinking on how councils should be engaging with and providing services to farmers and other ratepayers.

“Farmers are some of the largest funders of local government and the sector most likely to be impacted by regulation developed and implemented by councils. “Farmers need level-headed councillors who prioritise real needs over the ‘nice to haves’. They also need to respect the considerable contributions from ratepayers,” said Ms Milne. . . 

Livestock and sustainability – challenges and opportunities for New Zealand:

Livestock may provide one-third of the value of global agricultural production, but it comes at a big cost for the planet. Livestock uses 80 per cent of the world’s agricultural land, putting pressure on water resources and biodiversity and emitting 14.5 per cent of the planet’s greenhouse gases.

The benefits, risk, trade-offs and consequences are complex and policy makers are always looking for guidance. Now, new guidelines have been developed by the Committee on World Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE). The Committee’s report Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock? was launched last week at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. . . 

UK referendum opens can of worms and some opportunities  – Allan Barber:

The referendum on EU membership produced a result nobody really expected and nearly half the voters didn’t want, but now everyone has to plan for an uncertain future. There have even been suggestions the exit might not happen, unless the Westminster Parliament passes the required motion to activate the start of the exit process. It’s not worth thinking about the implications for British democracy, if that were to happen.

In the immediate aftermath of the 23 June referendum there are only two certainties in a sea of uncertainty – the pound is worth a lot less than it was which will affect export receipts, but red meat access to the EU including the UK will not change for two years from the time the UK invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which sets the exit process officially in motion. . . 

Agriculture set for slow-down – OECD:

The latest 10-year outlook from the OECD warns the recent period of high agricultural commodity prices is most likely over.

The report, produced with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said overall market growth was projected to slow and agricultural trade was expected to grow at less than half the rate of the previous decade.

The report – ‘OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025’ – said global agricultural trade was expected to grow by 1.8 percent per annum in volume during the next 10 years. . . 

Do possums howl at the moon?

Knowing if nocturnal pest mammals are more affected by the phases of the moon or by illumination could bring New Zealand one step closer to being pest free and save control agencies significant sums of money.

Lincoln UniversityEcology Master’s student Shannon Gilmore’s research into the effect lunar phases and illumination have on activity levels in possums, stoats, rats and mice is aimed at finding more effective and efficient means of targeting and managing these pests.

“It costs millions every year to control their populations,” says Shannon. “We’re waging a kind of war on pests. We need to discover their weaknesses. What trait do all four have in common that we can take advantage of? They are all nocturnal, and many nocturnal animals dramatically reduce their activity with the full moon, while others can become more active. . .

 


Rural round-up

March 29, 2016

Rural economy is not all doom and gloom:

All is not gloomy in the agricultural community even though collapsing dairy prices have left a hole at the heart of the sector, New Zealand farming analysts say.

And while dairy problems are having a ricochet effect on other farmers, some areas of the rural economy are doing well and others are booming.

One of the most optimistic sectors is the apple and pear industry. . . 

Not enough mouths – Annette Scott:

Rain has hit the spot for much of the South Island’s parched farmland but with it has come a new challenge – what to do with the feed.

The countrywide shortage of livestock was starting to kick in sooner than expected, Mid Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Peter Reveley said.

“We have had some absolutely brilliant rain. . . 

Waikato Lavender Farm owners farewell business after 20 years – Kelsey Wilkie:

After 20 years at the helm, the founders of Waikato’s Lavender Farm are moving on.

Ian and Bev Parlane opened the gates to the Alphra Lavenders farm at Orakau, 8km south of Te Awamutu, 20 years ago.

The purple garden spreads across one hectare.  . . 

Ham-fisted definitely, incompetent possibly – Allan Barber:

Fonterra’s succession of ultimatums to its suppliers smack of ham-fisted bullying and incompetence. The company’s first ultimatum was to push payment terms out to 90 days for a ‘small percentage’ of its New Zealand suppliers in line with its global practice , followed by an invitation to attend Dragon’s Den type negotiating sessions in which it has served notice it will demand 20% price reductions.

There is nothing wrong or sinister about a customer trying to negotiate better terms of trade as a means of increasing efficiency, but in Fonterra’s case the company appears to have completely ignored the value of proper communication and relationships with its suppliers. Many of these will be contractors that have devoted resources and valuable service over a number of years; these contractors will be an integral cog in the life and prosperity of the rural communities they serve and live in. . . 

Political high-fliers win farming award: ‘Cows don’t talk back’  – Gerald Piddock:

Two novices running a dairy farm have taken the title of regional Share Farmers of the Year – and it’s not just their career change that’s gaining attention. 

Matthew Herbert and Brad Markham say they are also the first same-sex couple to win a trophy at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

The former political advisor and journalist crossed the ditch two years ago, swapping talk with Australia’s top politicians to pulling teats on a dairy farm. . . 

These vitamin fortified bananas might get you thinking differently about GMOs – Nathanael Johnson:

In the winter of 2014, students at Iowa State University received emails asking them to volunteer for an experiment. Researchers were looking for women who would eat bananas that had been genetically engineered to produce extra carotenes, the yellow-orange nutrients that take their name from carrots. Our bodies use alpha and beta carotenes to make retinol, better known as vitamin A, and the experiment was testing how much of the carotenes in the bananas would transform to vitamin A. The researchers were part of an international team trying to end vitamin A deficiency.

The emails reached the volunteers they needed to begin the experiment, but they also reached protesters. “As a student in the sustainability program, I immediately started asking questions,” said Iowa State postdoc Rivka Fidel. “Is this proven safe? Have they considered the broader cultural and economic issues?” . . .

New Zealand’s fisheries performing well:

New Zealand’s fisheries continue to perform well, Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst says.

He was commenting on the latest Status of New Zealand Fisheries report published by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Around 83 per cent of individual fish stocks of known status and almost 97 per cent of landings are above or well above levels where their sustainability would be a cause for concern, he says.

“These figures are the result of a robust process and show that we are as good as or beyond the standard of the best in the world,” he says. . . 


Feds challenge NZ Greens to follow Aus Greens on GMOs

January 11, 2016

Federated Farmers is challenging the New Zealand Green Party to follow Australian Greens on moderating their stance on Genetic Modification.

Federated Farmers has welcomed a shift in thinking by the Australian Green Party and encourages their New Zealand counterparts to be equally open minded about the benefits of genetic modification.

Over the past week Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale has conducted a series of interviews in which he has opened the door to changing the party’s longstanding opposition to genetically modified organisms.

He told ABC radio that “the concerns are less around human health and much more around the application of the technology when it comes to giving farmers choice.” In another interview with The Land he said he did “not have a blanket objection to the use of genetically modified crops” and that “it’s a bit simplistic to say GMO’s are safe or they’re not safe.”

“This is entirely in line with Federated Farmers’ position of giving farmers choice about what and how they farm, and assessing the benefits and risks of genetically modified organisms on a case-by-case basis,” says Federated Farmers National President Dr William Rolleston.

“It’s refreshing to see such an open minded approach from the Australian Greens on what we see as a key issue for the agricultural sector, and we encourage the NZ Green Party to also review their policy on genetic modification.”

“If you look at some of the biggest challenges facing farmers at the moment, such as drought and pressure from some quarters to reduce biological emissions. These are both things that likely have a scientific solution,” says Dr Rolleston.

Dr Rolleston said genetic modification has been used extensively around the world, to the benefit of farmers and the environment, without any incident of harm attributable to the GM aspects of the application.

“Although no crops using GM are approved or grown here yet, this vitally important science is being used successfully in New Zealand. GM products such as food enzymes, medicines and animal feed are now commonplace.”

“We ask that the Greens open their minds to the agricultural sector also taking advantage of these rapidly evolving technologies,” he said.

Di Natale, like Rolleston, is a medical doctor:

. . . Senator Di Natale – whose medical career included practicing in regional areas – said he personally had no philosophical or ideological objections to the science of GM.

He said genetic modification was “something we’ve done for a long time in medicine”.

“I do not have a blanket objection to the use of genetically modified crops – I absolutely don’t – and it would be hypocritical for me to say that because I support the use of genetic modification in medicine,” he said. . . 

In response to this, Grant Jacobs writes at Sciblogs:

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks much of the ‘debate’ on GM is unhelpful.

Below are a few suggestions to those thinking about this issue, or who wish to offer public comment. . . 

 

  • Remember that genetic engineering (GE) has applications far wider than just crops, and more than just herbicide-tolerant crops.
  • If your concern is food safety or environmental issues, talking about ‘GMOs’ is a distraction away from issues (if any). It is the traits of each crop or animal variety that determine if there might be risk, not how the crop or animal was first bred.
  • If your concern is over transgenic organisms, say ‘transgenic organisms’ not ‘GMOs’.
  • If your concern relates to business aspects, make sure those concerns are real, related to GMOs and avoid straw-man arguments.
  • If your concern relates to international trade, give examples of it being an issue (rather than ‘what if’-style claims).
  • Be aware of misapplied or inappropriate cultural memes, or conflation with separable things.
  • Aim for discussion, not ‘debate’ or argument. . . 

If you follow the link you can read his elaboration on each point.

A lot of the debate on GMOs is based on politics and misinformation rather than science.

Caution on any new technology is wise, but a blanket ban on GMOs is not.

 


%d bloggers like this: