GM de­bate needs to be re­solved

Te Puke Times - - NEWS - By DAR­RYL JENSEN Fed­er­ated Farm­ers Bay of Plenty pro­vin­cial pres­i­dent

To GM or not GM is the ques­tion. GM [ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion] is a hotly de­bated topic with a lot of emo­tion at­tached to the de­bate.

Even within Fed­er­ated Farm­ers there is an ar­ray of opin­ions on this sub­ject.

But it needs to be re­solved. The de­bate needs to be pub­lic, but it is a po­lit­i­cal hot-potato no one wants to front on.

In New Zealand we have sci­en­tists do­ing great things in the agri­cul­tural, hor­ti­cul­tural and arable sec­tors with GM. The Min­istry for Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment and our seed com­pa­nies had $10 mil­lion for field tri­als, but due to dif­fi­cul­ties nav­i­gat­ing the NZ’s Haz­ardous Sub­stances and New Or­gan­isms Act, likely re­stric­tions on fur­ther re­search and co-fun­der sen­si­tiv­ity with over­seas mar­kets means it is eas­ier to do the tri­als off­shore.

At the present time a New Zealand-de­vel­oped GM grass is go­ing to un­dergo field tri­als in the United States with the chance this High Metabolis­able En­ergy rye­grass may never be grown here.

This rye­grass un­der lab­o­ra­tory con­di­tions has proven to re­duce meth­ane, ni­trous ox­ide emis­sions and ni­tro­gen leach­ing. In these times of en­vi­ron­ment and cli­matic chal­lenges this type of GM tech­nol­ogy could give us farm­ers the com­ple­tive edge re­quired by the com­mu­nity and busi­ness. This type of re­search has huge ben­e­fits for our farm­ing com­mu­nity in grow­ing more grass (dry­mat­ter) to feed our an­i­mals with less fer­tiliser in­puts, there­fore cre­at­ing less re­liance on hav­ing to use im­ported feeds in times of pos­si­ble feed short­ages.

This type of work in plant and an­i­mal re­search has been go­ing on for decades, so why now do we get all con­cerned about it? Wider so­ci­ety needs to un­der­stand GM is not do­ing strange things to a plant — the process is just en­hanc­ing an at­tribute for the greater good.

New Zealand is a small na­tion, but we can have a point of dif­fer­ence giv­ing us the com­pet­i­tive edge to make our farm­ing more vi­able. GM tech­nol­ogy can help us.

Dar­ryl Jensen

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