19/10/2009

NZ Courts Disaster With GE Fodder Crops While Better Options Ignored The AgResearch

 

The AgResearch announcement that they are developing GE fodder crops to contain high levels of fats and potentially reduce methane emissions, is short sighted and promotes a disasterous mono-culture that must be stopped.

If left to flower the plant's modified genes will make co-existence of GE-free crops impossible unless the rye grass is bred to contain terminator-genes, widely seen as unethical and costly to farmers. Yet alternative approaches to methane-reduction that can be readily implemented are being deliberately sidelined.

If left to flower the plant's modified genes will make co-existence of GE-free crops impossible unless the rye grass is bred to contain terminator-genes, widely seen as unethical and costly to farmers. Yet alternative approaches to methane-reduction that can be readily implemented are being deliberately sidelined.

"It is sad that the Foundation for Research and Technology (FORST) continues to put money into costly Genetic Engineering research instead of the alternatives that have real benefit to farmers and consumers," said Claire Bleakley "This research does not preserve the opportunity of farmers to stay GE free and has the added cost of patents that make the seed very expensive. Are the research organisations willing to bear the cost of court action for contamination of the country side and loss of exports or will the GE ryegrass contain the sterility gene that will destroy the ability of rye seed second generation?"

New Zealand has already completed robust research into fodder crops that reduce methane which FORST should continue to fund to get to the farm gate. These crops are already in New Zealand and include legumes and grasses such as trefoil, sulla clovers, lucerne and an assortment of grasses. Research has shown that they not only boost milk production but reduce methane emissions.[1][2]

The GE fodder crop offers no credible benefit to New Zealand: any hint of GE-fed animals has the potential to collapse the export market to Europe and Japan as there is strong consumer rejection of GE foods as well as products from GE-fed animals. There is no guarantee that AgResearch's experimental GE rye feed will perform any better that the conventionally bred ryegrass already on the market that was developed over the last few years.

Further there is a threat to the environment and food security, as studies have shown that for plants to produce high levels of a foreign genetically engineered traits they turn off vital function or protection genes, as well as needing more water and if the rye grass contains terminator technology it will cost farmers to re sow every year.

The argument for promoting GE feed does not stand up to scrutiny. Grass fed animals already have more Omega fatty acids and Vitamin E than grain fed animals. This is because omega-3 (linoleic and linolenic acid) fatty acids and Vitamin E are formed in the green leaves (specifically the chloroplasts) of plants. Sixty percent of the fat content of grass is a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic or LNA which is lost when animals are fed on grain. Comparisons of Vitamin E levels in meat from feedlot cattle given high doses of synthetic Vitamin E (1,000 IU per day) with other cattle raised on fresh pasture with no added supplements, found that vitamin E in grass fed cattle was almost twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle given the supplements [3].

Perenial rye, coxfoot and tall fescue grasses are already identified as naturally containing high levels sugars and both saturated and unsaturated lipids fats [4]. Leys containing plantain and chickory with the mixed grasses and legumes can provide a balanced and healthy pasture for stock without the risks of GE crops.

"For farmers to provide a balanced diet for their animals they must grow a diverse un engineered pasture that can be implemented right now. It is time that the FORST stopped funding an unwanted dangerous technology that focuses all the R&D money in one basket. To date millions has been spent trying to find a magic-bullet "GE" solution to controling nature but nothing has come close to existing solutions that have been in the commons for millennia, and are sustainable because they work with the grain of nature." ENDS

ENDS: Claire Bleakley 027 348 6731 / 06-3089842
Jon Carapiet 021 050 7681

References:
[1] Wittenberg K.M. Enteric methane emissions and mitigation opportunities for Canadian cattle production systems. Department of Animal Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2
‘Energy lost as enteric methane emissions were 7.1 % of GEI for alfalfa-grass vs. 9.5 % of GEI for grass-only pastures. An 11 % increase for calf growth rates on the legume-grass pasture would serve as further incentive to consider legume incorporation as a mitigation strategy” (p6)

Ominski K and Wittenberg K.M (2004) Strategies For Reducing Enteric Methane Emissions In Forage-Based Beef Production Systems, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta Canadian Society of Agronomy, Animal Science and Soil Science.

[2] Mountfort M., (2003) Methane mitigation Dairy Exporter; p56.

[3] Jo Johnson, The Health Benefits of Grass Farming "Why Grassfed is Best!" http://www.americangrassfedbeef.com/grass-fed-natural-beef.asp

[4] Miri P s., Bittman s., Hunt D., Entz T and Yip B., 2006 Lipid content and fatty acid composition of grasses sampled on different dates through the early part of the growing season Can. J. Anim. Sci. 86: 279–290.


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