‘Mas­sive dis­ser­vice’ to flora and fauna

The Northland Age - - Local News -

Re­fus­ing to con­sider promising tools for preda­tor control was do­ing a mas­sive dis­ser­vice to New Zealand’s na­tive flora and fauna, ac­cord­ing to Fed­er­ated Farm­ers en­vi­ron­ment spokesman Chris Allen.

This au­tumn’s ‘mega mast’ pre­sented a huge chal­lenge to pest control agen­cies and count­less vol­un­teers, he said, and the fre­quency of ex­cep­tion­ally heavy tree seed­ing events was likely to in­crease with cli­mate change, but the gov­ern­ment had called a halt on re­search on ge­netic engineerin­g tech­nolo­gies.

The De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion is plan­ning its big­gest 1080 and trap­ping re­sponse (a $38 mil­lion pro­gramme cov­er­ing about one mil­lion hectares) in an ef­fort to com­bat the plague of rats, stoats and pos­sums that would feast on na­tive birds, bats, lizards, in­sects and trees when the plen­ti­ful seeds ran out.

“Spread­ing 1080 is ac­knowl­edged by sci­en­tists and think­ing New Zealan­ders as the best tool we cur­rently have in our fight to pro­tect our bio­di­ver­sity, but it’s by no means per­fect. Nor will its availabili­ty con­tinue to be guar­an­teed,” Mr Allen said.

‘Rapidly ad­vanc­ing ge­netic engineerin­g tech­niques could well of­fer us much more ef­fec­tive pest control tools, as well as new ways of lim­it­ing green­house gases. New Zealand needs to get on with the job of prov­ing if the tech­nol­ogy can do the job ef­fec­tively, with no un­in­tended con­se­quences.

“We should be do­ing this re­search now, to prove to New Zealan­ders there is another way to de­feat pests, and to fos­ter well-in­formed pub­lic de­bate on the safety and other as­pects of GE.

“In­stead, this gov­ern­ment seems to be let­ting ide­ol­ogy over­rule sci­ence. Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Eu­ge­nie Sage has not re­scinded her in­struc­tions to Preda­tor-free NZ to not be in­volved in any re­search to do with GE or­gan­isms and tech­nolo­gies such as CRISPR and gene edit­ing.

“This is un­help­ful, head-inthe-sand stuff. I can’t see New Zealand mak­ing a big leap to­ward meet­ing preda­tor-free as­pi­ra­tions or our cli­mate obli­ga­tions with this gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach.”

PICTURE / FILE

Tra­di­tional pest control methods won’t save na­tive species dur­ing the com­ing ‘mega mast’ ac­cord­ing to Fed­er­ated Farm­ers.

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