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Pick up pace on genetic technologies - Federated Farmers

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The steady progress AgResearch is making on field trials of environment-friendly GM ryegrass in the United States serves as a hurry up for New Zealand to get on with a mature national conversation about genetic modification, Federated Farmers says.

"We’re all agreed climate change and our international commitments on greenhouse gas reductions present big challenges to our economy and way of life but we’re currently sidelining a potential major tool that could help farmers tackle ruminant methane and excreted nitrogen," Feds President Katie Milne says.

"It’s bordering on ridiculous that our current laws on GM have forced AgResearch to go to the United States to simulate the sort of growing conditions found in New Zealand as they trial the properties of genetically modified High Metabolisable Energy (HME) ryegrass."

As AgResearch has reported today, its experiments in the USA are about showing whether this new potentially environmentally sustainable grass - one that strikes a balance between reductions in methane emissions from animals that eat it, greater tolerance to drought and farm productivity - will perform in the field in a similar way to how it performs in controlled environmental studies. Initial results are encouraging.

Earlier in August, a panel of experts convened by New Zealand’s Royal Society pointed out in a series of compelling reports some of the considerable benefits genetic technologies could bring, and also the need to debate potential downsides.

"This is just the latest call from scientists and experts for an overhaul of our outdated regulations in this space, lest we fall further behind progress on this in other parts of the world," Milne says.

Genetic technologies could also be a powerful tool for the kauri dieback calamity and our drive to be predator-free.

"No-one is saying we should rush into genetic modification overnight, or that it is the answer to everything. But discussion at government level on progressing measured debate and a review of our current rules appears to be moving a glacial pace. We need some acceleration."

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