Science when it suits

April 8, 2019

Anyone who dares to challenge the politically accepted view on climate change  is told to accept the science.

But  during Question Time last week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw, showed again he is prepared to accept only the science that suits:

. . . Todd Muller: Does he stand by his statement made on 4 March during an interview on Q+A that when it comes to the application of GE technology in New Zealand, he—and I quote—”will be led by the science on it.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the former Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who said—and I quote—”I’ll go as far as to say that I cannot see a way that agriculture in New Zealand will be sustainable over the long run in the face of environmental change and consumer preferences without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the then Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who also said at the time—and I quote—”There is no way that we will get a reduction in methane production, and I can see no way that we will see an economic advantage for farmers as we shift to more plant-based foods, without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: When he said he would be—and I quote—”led by the science”, did he mean all science or just the science that fits his political narrative?

Hon JAMES SHAW: If the member looks at the previous supplementary questions, he’ll see that what Sir Peter Gluckman was saying is that he didn’t see any other ways than GE to achieve those outcomes. I do see other ways.

Todd Muller: What are the other ways of addressing agriculture emission reduction that he thinks the chief scientist has not captured in his assessment?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I can’t comment on what the former Chief Science Advisor included in his assessment, but if the member’s interested, I would advise him to read the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group that the previous Government set up. It took a number of years looking at a range of options for how agricultural emissions could be reduced and found that, actually, with a high degree of confidence, agriculture would be able to reduce emissions by at least 10 percent by 2030, and found with a similarly high degree of confidence that it would be able to reduce it by at least 30 percent by 2050.

Todd Muller: A final supplementary: does he consider climate change to be a sufficiently serious global issue that all science and innovations, including GE, need to be considered, or does he just think it is a pick and choose menu?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I think that policy makers always have options in front of them about what choices to make, but I certainly do believe that climate change is not just the greatest challenge of our time but, potentially, the greatest challenge of all time. . .

If he wants us to accept that climate change is such a challenge and take the need for action seriously, how can he shut the door on technology that could address at least some of the contributors?

Federated Farmers correctly points out his closed mind is unhelpful:

The Green Party’s apparent unwillingness to even have a discussion on the potential of genetic engineering to provide solutions to some of our most pressing environmental issues is extremely disappointing, Federated Farmers says.

“Terse answers from Climate Change Minister James Shaw to Parliamentary questions this week indicate the Greens find the GE topic too hot to handle. But discussions on pragmatic and science-based policies should not be held to ransom by merely trying to keep a vocal section of your political party’s membership happy,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been plenty of media reports about a ryegrass developed by NZ AgResearch using gene editing. It can substantially reduce methane emissions from cattle which eat it. Under our current laws the grass cannot be grown in New Zealand, and field trials are having to take place in the United States. . . 

“Mr Shaw didn’t have to agree with Sir Peter Gluckman but we do hope he won’t be so quick to shut down discussion of GE’s potential in talks with groups such as Federated Farmers and others,” Andrew says.

“We’ve already had Green MP and Conservation Minister  tell Predator-free NZ not to pursue the option of GE technologies as an answer to eradication of possums, rats and other pests.

“Farmers are being called on to make deep cuts in emissions from their livestock. Just about the only way were going to be able to do that, without crippling the viability of many farms, are breakthrough technologies still being worked on.

“Federated Farmers’ position is that we should at least be open to the potential of GE, and we need to continue scientific and field research on its advantages and disadvantages, at the same time as having an open-minded and rational debate with all New Zealanders.”

James Shaw is playing to his political supporters and putting their opposition to GE, which is based far more on emotion than science, ahead of his ministerial responsibility.

In doing so he is denying New Zealanders tools which could reduce greenhouse gases and increase the pace of the journey towards a predator-free country, both of which ought to appeal to those of a green persuasion, but sadly not enough who are Greens.

It’s a pity they and the Minister, can’t, or won’t, accept the science that shows the very low risks and high potential benefits of GE.


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

January 9, 2017

Hold trade partners to account – Nigel Stirling:

They are expensive and have been used only sparingly in New Zealand’s history.

But one of the country’s top trade lawyers, Tracey Epps, says the Government shouldn’t shy away from taking cases against protectionist trading partners to the World Trade Organisation.

She tells Nigel Stirling why.

It amounted to a billion-dollar Christmas present for the country’s beef farmers. . . 

New plan ready to go – Alan Williams:

Farmers want Beef + Lamb NZ to step up its market development work and chairman James Parsons says a start is under way.

The new plan would involve more development work in key, mature markets alongside the export companies, Parsons said.

Promotions would be made only if companies were prepared to follow through with products and had already helped to develop the strategy. . . 

Reforming our regional economy – Chris Perley:

Why do we manage land the way we do? Why does New Zealand focus on ever-more gross production over a great scale of sameness?

Why do we talk of “feeding the world” when we can at best feed 40 million or so? Why do some defend the consequences of pollution of streams?

Why do we think we can keep on farming the way that we do, and then add some token riparian fences as some panacea solution – which it patently is not?

Enough with all the mechanical in-the-box thinking. It is leading us in a vicious treadmill downwards. . . 

High tech solution to invasive mammal pests – James Russell:

This year the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge in New Zealand launches its project on high tech solutions to invasive mammal pests, hosted by the University of Auckland. The high tech solutions project aims to deliver the long-term science solutions which will become a part of Predator Free New Zealand. In July 2016 the New Zealand government officially adopted Predator Free New Zealand and in December appointed the PFNZ2050 board of directors and announced its commitment to the Honolulu Challenge. In 2017 the high tech solutions project will commence researching the science which will eventually be needed to achieve the 2050 target. . . 

New Year honours for dairy, beef and wine leaders – Gerard Hutching:

Former National Cabinet minister John Luxton has been honoured with a Companion of the Order of New Zealand (CNZM) for his services to the dairy industry.

“This award is a recognition of the importance of the dairy industry, which is very innovative and responsible for earning nearly half New Zealand’s primary sector exports,” he said.

A National Party MP from 1987 to 2002, Luxton held numerous Cabinet portfolios including Agriculture, Housing and Commerce.

He oversaw the development of industry-good body DairyNZ, stepping down as chairman of the board last year, having held the position since 2008. . . 

Farm-turned-amusement park provides ‘good, wholesome, old fashioned fun‘ – David Burroughs:

If you’ve ever wanted to ride a cow, or get towed behind a tractor, or ride a bike like ET, you need to visit Fernbrooke Farm Amusement Park.

Sitting near the base of Mt Taranaki, the park is the brainchild of Stratford farmer Dave Hunger, who for the last five years has spent his spare time creating weird and wonderful machines and toys.

Hunger started bringing visitors on to his farm five years ago after making a trebuchet, similar to a catapult, out of a 13 metre long tree. . . 

Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor, text and nature

I work out (side).


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