GE has place in NZ

08/04/2014

The audience at the annual Kim Hill Earth Hour debate decided there is a place for genetic engineering in New Zealand.

. . . Ninety minutes of pros, cons and broad views presented by panellists Tony Conner (AgResearch),  Robert Cruickshank (Lincoln University) and Richard Newcomb (Plant and Food Research) on one team and Christine Dann (Organics Aotearoa), Philip Gregan (NZ Winegrowers) and  Jon Hickford (Lincoln University) on the other, with close interrogation of them all by Kim Hill, was followed by 30 minutes of questions from the audience.  Chairwoman Sarah Walters, Deputy Mayor of Selwyn, then invited the audience to indicate by “noise” how they felt on the question.

Sarah ruled that the “ayes” were “slightly louder” signalling that genetic engineering should stay on New Zealand’s agenda “as a research opportunity” but with the provisos that it be well regulated, that consumers have a choice between GE and non-GE through strict labelling, and that the role of large overseas corporate organisations funding, and thereby influencing, research, be curbed. . .

Richard Newcomb added that the “GE debate has become completely intertwined with the anti-big business debate and with the notion of big business controlling food production and supply.” . . . .

He’s right – many of those opposed to GE are on the left of politics and also opposed to what they label big business.

Defending the environment, Christine Dann said she believed genetic engineering was “ecologically dangerous and too risky.”

“If everyone had their own little garden and grew their own vegetables the problem would be solved,” she said.  . .

If she is right, and I don’t think she is, Would she care that a whole lot of other problems would be created including job losses?

New Zealand is taking a very cautious approach to GE which is as it should be.

But the vehement opposition to it is based on emotion not science.

That a majority of the audience gave cautious support, albeit with provisos, to GE gives some hope that science might win.

 

 


Do we still need to feed the world?

07/09/2012

New Zealand is regarded as a leader in farming but we’re at risk of being left well behind if we don’t adopt 21st century biotechnology.

Crop-enhancing biotechnology is the world’s best hope of feeding a population expected to double by 2050, but scientists at an international conference in Rorotua this week warned NZ is in danger of missing the bus as resistance to genetic modification blocks development. AgResearch scientist Tony Conner said the amount of land planted with GM crops worldwide last year was 6 times the size of NZ. “If we continue to not adopt this technology, we run a huge risk of being left behind..In another decade we could be dealing with yesterday’s crops.”

No GM crops are grown in NZ, despite the vast potential for improved output from homegrown GM pastures, alongside exported products such as tomatoes, capsicum and squash. The loss in not embracing GM has been put at $1.5bn.

The reason we’re not embracing GM is that opposition based on emotion rather than science is dominating the discussion.

Caution with anything new is sensible but the blanket ban on genetic modification is blinkered.

Green MP Steffan Browning who helped lead a protest against the conference contends NZ should rely on organic and traditional means of producing food. “Rather than going for volume we need to be going for best value and not compromise our brand.” A research study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine could find little evidence food produced organically, without artificial fertilisers or other chemicals, is healthier or the vitamin content was any different.

Genetic modification might help farmers reduce the need for artificial fertilisers and pesticides, it would definitely enable us to produce more.

Food security is one of the biggest issues facing the world.

Although we export most of the food we produce, it’s not a lot on a global scale. Genetic modification could enable us to produce more food with better nutritional value.

If we could do more to feed the world, should we, or is it acceptable to keep the blinkers on, worry only about our little corner and let someone else concern themselves with feeding the hungry?


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