Environment Minister Nick Smith wants to bully us into accepting GE plants into New Zealand using bad law, unproven claims about productivity, and emotional spin on cancer treatment research. Instead of trashing our overseas reputation, we should be far more visionary: a GE-Free Aotearoa where high-value organic production is sustainable and maximises export returns.
As TVNZ’s Sunday program this week showed, growers like the successful Bostock organic apples and poultry producers, are increasingly unhappy with Nick Smith’s blinkered pro-GE stance.
Smith has been using unproven science on GE rye grass, and misleading claims about GE vaccine research to bolster his argument for radical new ministerial powers. The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, currently in front of Parliament would allow Minister Smith to override Councils who choose to declare GE-free zones for their community’s environmental and economic wellbeing.
AgResearch’s genetically engineered (GE) forages (including ryegrass) program has already wasted millions of taxpayers’ money. If the grass was released into the environment, there’s a strong chance it would wreck New Zealand’s competitive GE Free advantage; and certainly reduce the billions of dollars of export potential in organic conversions. The supposed productivity boost of GE rye grass is not just unproven, but part of a succession of failed research targets and timelines over the last 20 years.
Government support for PGG-Wrightson Seed’s GE rye grass venture with AgResearch, was welcomed by the Chinese owners who have stated they want to rival GE giant Monsanto in the international seed world.
Where are Smith’s GE ideas coming from?
Just a few months ago, Dr Tony Conner, the Forage Science Group Leader at AgResearch was celebrating a $10 million grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund. Combined with other funding, that totals $25 million over five years into genetically modified forages research. Conner was a senior manager with then Crop & Food when the GE brassica research was exposed as failing its experimental conditions, as had a previous Crop & Food GE onions trial.
Smith has also hired as Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Chief Executive, Alan Freeth, the very person that pushed PGG-Wrightson into developing GE plants. Unsurprisingly then, under Smith’s new legislation, the EPA will be allowed to override local communities that may not want to have GE in their regions.
Nick Smith, it appears, is listening to researchers like Conner and long-time advocates like Freeth; not consumers or growers.
That’s despite evidence that consumers want GE-Free produce. The fastest growing food label in the USA is a GMO-Free, followed closely by organic food labels. In Aotearoa New Zealand, we cannot grow enough organic apples or organic milk to meet the ever increasing demand internationally, yet the government is fixated on ruining those market opportunities by increasing low-value commodity production for lowest value and unsustainable dairy production.
Dirty rivers, dirty dairying and downright dirty tactics to get GE into New Zealand.