14/03/2011

Push-Pull Strategy Good For NZ

 

New Zealand can benefit from adopting innovation strategies identified in a new report by the UN on The Right to Food [1].The report identifies smart agro-ecological techniques and systems-management such as the ‘push-pull’ pest-reduction that creates a win/win/win situation for farmers, consumers and the environment.

Most importantly the report identifies the best solution to feeding the world's growing population, combat malnutrition and reduce pesticide reliance. The approaches detailed in the report give growers better yields and ensure economic and food security.

But the report says governments and local communities need to lead the innovation strategy rather than commercial players who may try to block progress to protect their own interests.

"The New Zealand government must move to implement these recommendations if it is to maintain a market edge of environmental sustainability, and to build economic resilience through the recession, and for the years ahead," says Jon Carapiet spokesman for GE-FREE NZ in food and environment.

The UN report by Olivier de Schutter's found that agro-ecology methods ‘strongly contributed to economic development’ and could double food production in 10 years.

The ‘push - pull’ method highlighted in the report uses the interplanting of pest-repelling legume plant Desmodium spp [2] to protect the main food crop, Maize or Sorghum. The legume fixes nitrogen for the maize and the distinctive smell repels pests, pushing them into a buffer row, in this case Napier grass which has sticky exudates that traps insects. The Napier grass is then grazed or cut and fed to the cattle with the benefits of increased milk production and higher maize yields. This ‘push-pull’ farming method is now being used successfully by over 10,000 African farmers.

"Developed countries like New Zealand need to use smart agro-ecological approaches," says Claire Bleakley, president of GE-FREE NZ in food and environment.

"Research needs to be funded into how to best implement this knowledge for the public good. We have a moral responsibility to becomes part of the food security solution."

New Zealand's interests are best served by investing in the science of scaling up these innovative traditional breeding methods using organic and smart pesticide reduction approaches.

The Biological Husbandry unit (BHU) in Lincoln researched similar studies with corn, beans and squash [3] finding that the intercrop method increased yields as well as biomass that could be used as a soil conditioner and stock feed.

Already New Zealand has shown that it leads the world in sustainable and innovative ideas. The Research that has shown the dairy sector how to mitigate methane emissions through mixed pasture legumes and grasses, and is just waiting to be implemented.

The government must get behind adoption of clean green approaches that work with the grain of nature. We cannot allow commercial interests to block progress, even when it's major commercial interests like Fonterra calling the shots.

"Agro-ecology may be where private interest and the national interest no longer align," says Jon Carapiet

New Zealand has entered the global economy and is renowned for its clean green healthy food production systems. This has taken a very long time to build and has attracted major investment due to our disease-free status.

“We have been promised that many novel GE methods will be available in 15 years but this is through reliance on pesticide applications which have adverse environmental and health effects,” says Claire Bleakley.

“The push-pull method of pest management adds to the tool-box a practical, non-GE, economically viable and consumer friendly approach to agriculture that can be started today.”

ENDS

References:

[1] Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter (2011) http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/20110308_a-hrc-16-49_agroecology_en.pdf

[1] Marcia Ishii-Eiteman (2011) Agroecological farming can double food produx in 10 yrs

[2] Desmodium - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmodium

[3] Biological husbandry Unit Cron, beans and squash inter crop experiment (2003) http://www.bhu.co.nz/Info/Biodiversity/corn%20bean%20squash%20intercrop%20Expt.doc

ENDS

Jon Carapiet 0210507681

Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731

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