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by Newshub under the Official Information Act reveal the current law around genetically modified organisms (GMO) is out of date and could be restricting New Zealand’s access to the advancements the technologies provide.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developments raise questions as to whether New Zealand’s regulatory framework is still appropriate as the Gnis becoming outdated in light of developments.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“Looking at the way this technology has evolved over the last seven or eight years, it’s outdated and definitely not fit for purpose.”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.

 

 

 

 


Bag ban greenwash

January 8, 2019

”Have you got your own bag?” the checkout operator asked me late last year.

”No,” I replied.

I then explained that was deliberate. I used to bring my own most of the time but once I knew supermarkets wouldn’t be supplying the multi-use bags I left my own at home to stockpile the others to line rubbish bins, carry shoes when travelling and the other uses to which I put them.

”You’ll still be able to buy them,” she said.

No wonder supermarkets aren’t at all worried by the bag ban. But what of customers?

What happens when they‘ve forgotten their bags, or popped into the supermarket unexpectedly and didn’t have any, or buy more than their bags can contain?

They might be able to put their groceries in one of the boxes most checkouts have, or they might buy less than they’d planned or they will just buy yet another bag.

Customers might also wonder why they are being denied those very useful multi-use bags when so much of what the supermarket sells is covered in plastic, quite a lot of it unnecessarily.

Why for instance do bananas come in plastic bags when nature provides them with skins that obviate the need for any other covering?

That’s a question with no logical answer which isn’t surprising when so many supposedly green initiatives owe more to political posturing than logic or science.

The question of what I’ll do when my stockpile of multi-use bags runs out does have an answer.

I’ll do what I used to do before we had the multi-use bags – line my rubbish bins with newspaper.

We didn’t have bags to buy back then but I’ll use the ones I have to buy when I forget to take my own for shoes when travelling

And will that do anything to make a meaningful difference to the plastic waste that ends up in oceans?

Almost certainly not, when 93%  of the plastic in the sea comes from just 10 rivers and you have to use alternative bags many, many times before the environmental impact of making and disposing of them is less than that of the multi-use ones supermarkets no longer supply.

The Ministry for the environment notes that poorer people might not be able to afford to buy bags.

The Government’s plastic bag ban could affect the poorest the hardest, according to advice from the Ministry for the Environment.

To mitigate this problem, the ministry recommended people with Gold and Community services cards receive reusable bags for free. . .

The Ministry also notes:

“If multi-use bags are not reused by the consumer to the design lifetime of the bags, net resource use may increase – resulting in greater inefficiency and loss of resources, compared to the status quo.”

In other words, the bag ban could be greenwash, the impact of which will be worse than the problem it’s trying to solve.

 


Rural round-up

August 12, 2017

Farming to end –  Annette Scott:

FARMING will have to shut down in Canterbury’s Selwyn district to meet national water quality standards for the region’s polluted Lake Ellesmere, Environment Canterbury has told the Government.

In a business case analysis provided to the Ministry for the Environment, ECan outlined significant fundamental change needed to bring the lake, one of New Zealand’s most polluted, into line.

“On the current basis to achieve Government freshwater outcomes as mandated it would mean taking all intensive agriculture, not just dairy, out of the play,” ECan councillor and Selwyn district farmer John Sunckell said. . .

Mycoplasma bovis update:

MPI’s progress in the response to the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis was the focus of a well-attended public meeting in Waimate last night.

Around 100 people turned out to hear MPI officials and a number of industry body partners outline the current surveillance and testing regime and timelines, the robustness of disease containment measures and the actions farmers can take to protect their farms.

There remains no change to the number of properties with confirmed positive test results for Mycoplasma bovis – 2 farms, both within the wider Van Leeuwen group of farms. . .

Beltex lambs hit the ground – Annette Scott:

THE first lamb has hit the ground marking the beginning of an exciting new meat breed for the New Zealand sheep industry.

And for the partners in the venture it was almost more exciting than getting grandchildren.

Beltex embryos imported from England were transferred to four-year-old Perendale ewes on Blair Gallagher’s Mid Canterbury foothills Rangiatea farm in March. . .

Demand for vets ‘unprecedented‘ – Yvonne O’Hara:

As the southern dairy industry improves after seasons of low payouts and on-farm cost-cutting, some of the region’s veterinarian practices are finding it difficult to fill staff vacancies, a trend that is reflected nationally.

They are also in competition with overseas recruiting agencies, which are eyeing New Zealand to fill their clients’ needs.

The increasing demand for both production and companion animal vet services as practices get busier, is a good indicator of how well the economy is doing, New Zealand Veterinary Association’s Veterinary Business Group chairwoman Debra Gates said. . .

Catchment group and iwi join forces – Nicole Sharp:

The Pourakino Catchment Group and local iwi are putting a game plan in place for increasing plantings and improving water quality in the catchment by working together.

The group hosted a field day at Oraka Aparima Runaka marae recently, talking about the nursery run by the marae and how the two groups would work together to grow and plant trees in the catchment.

The group saw itself as a driver of change in Southland, as one of the earliest formed catchment groups in the region. . .

Too wet to sow pick-your-own verges for Palmerston North grower – Jill Galloway:

A pick-your-own garden is running to crunch point to get some vegetables planted so they’re ready for the week before Christmas, when everybody wants fresh potatoes, peas and berries.

Neville Dickey from Delta Gardens near Palmerston North said he was feeling the pinch of continual wet weather after 34 years of vegetable growing and meeting the Christmas market.

The 12 hectare block was on river silt, gravel and sand, and would dry out soon if there was a break in the weather, he said.

“There are not many years that have we have seen so much rain. We have had rain on and off since September last year.” . .


Water quality concern for all

October 19, 2012

The Ministry of Environment report on water quality shows most of our popular coastal swimming spots are fine for swimming most of the time but there are many freshwater swimming spots which should be avoided.

The immediate response to this was criticism of farmers and “dirty dairying” in particular.

But farmingin genreal and dairying in particular are not the only culprits.

The New Zealand Herald editorial calls for more action from farmers but also points out:

. . . Oil and brake fluid released onto roads is carried by rains into stormwater drains and end up in streams. Too often in heavy rain wastewater systems overflow and add to the contamination. . .

I make no excuses for people who pollute waterways but some of the criticism levelled at farmers is unfair and where farming can be blamed, it’s not necessarily dairying that is causing problems.

The MfE data summary shows the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls as having poor water quality.

This is very near the intake for the rural water scheme which supplies the water we drink but it is upstream of any dairy farms.

Further down the Kakanui from Clifton Falls, below several sheep and dairy farms and some intensive horticulture,  at the estuary the water quality is fair.

We’ve been working with the regional council to ensure we’re doing all we can on our farm to protect waterways. Tests showed high E-coli below a dam and it wasn’t our stock or farming practices which were to blame, it was water fowl.

Some water issues can be laid at the feet of human visitors too  Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers water spokesman notes:

“Being a representative farmers’ organisation, we know our members cannot duck or hide that a number of these sites do fall in rural areas. Federated Farmers is aware of this and is why we are working across industry and with our own members to lift agriculture’s game.

“I know farmers ‘get it’ and this is why it is wrong to blame farming for everything. Doing that masks the reality there are very poor sites around settlements and near camp sites. . . 

Some farmers still need to improve their practices but most recognise the need to protect waterways. Feds chief executive Conor English says:

. . . The focus needs to be on finding solutions, based on sound science and profitable and sustainable farming.

Farmers are custodians of the land and water, harvesting for the benefit of today and future generations. They want to leave it better than they found it.

While some still need to pull their socks up, farmers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars putting in effluent systems, excluding stock from waterways, measuring fertiliser and investing in more efficient irrigation. That investment has allowed export growth, earning money to pay the bills for hospitals, schools and other services. It provides jobs and has improved the environment.

Water-quality measures must include all those whose discharge into rivers . . .

Water quality concerns us all and improving it requires improvements in both rural and urban practices.


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