A marketing professor and team from the University of Otago are guilty of wasting research money, and potentially misleading decision-makers by asking tourists about 'New Zealand cows and sheep going hungry', and seemingly proving that global trends towards authenticity and food safety mean nothing.
The report launched on 1st April claims to “expose the myth” that GM-free and Nuclear-free are of benefit to New Zealand, or contribute to a positive halo-effect amongst consumers and tourists.
“Associate Professor Knight appears to have proved what he set out to show: that GE crops and nuclear energy have no risk-profile for our clean green image. This is utter nonsense,” says Jon Carapiet from GE-free NZ (in food and environment).
The researchers asked tourists about using 'GM' grass to help stop “NZ cows and sheep going hungry”, without measuring the economic opportunity of promoting New Zealand as GE-free, or the opportunity-cost of undermining the integrity of food production.
The carefully constructed research follows previous studies and casts a shadow over the academic reputation of Otago University, as well as the credibility of the lead author. The report itself identifies flaws in the questionnaire.
“Asking people whether they’re for or against GM crops is as ridiculous as asking whether they’re for or against fire.” (Henderson, 2003).
Yet interviewers posed the same simplistic and misleading questions. Tourists were primed with impressions of benefits of “GM” before being asked if they believed GM should be “promoted or opposed.” There appears to have been no definition of GM or of Genetic Engineering.
“This is an April fools joke,” says Jon Carapiet.“Humanity has genetically modified foods for thousands of years using selective and marker assisted breeding. GE is nothing like that and participants should have been told. Without a clear understanding, the data is meaningless.”
A review of the questionnaire reveals direct questioning which is almost cajoling. Without proper ordering of questions and the use of projective techniques, normative and rational answers are prompted. The study fails to understand the emotive values around New Zealand.
Decisions of government have been taken by the research team to mean “Trust in New Zealand” as whole, though the data has not been released. Intensive dairying feedlots are described as 'freestalls'- a place “that allows cows to move freely, but provides individual space for lying down.”
“All New Zealand produce is GE-free, and that is what premium markets want,” says Claire Bleakely, president of GE-Free NZ (in food and environment).
“New Zealand's economic wellbeing is at risk if the report is seized upon by misguided or vested interests to justify undermining Brand New Zealand. GE-free, organic, clean, sustainable and ethical production is our best investment for the future.'
“Even if the future for clean safe GE-free food was just 10% of the global demand, this is not 'tiny' as the Report claims. New Zealand will win by being the gold standard for food safety and purity.”
The report is chicanery at its worse. Associate Professor Knight should consider resigning rather than so blatantly pushing an agenda with misleading conclusions hidden behind a respectable cloak of academia.
Jon Carapiet 021 0507681
Claire Bleakely 027 3486731
Research exposes 'Myth"that GM pasture will deter tourists. Friday, 1 April 2011
Otago School of Business,University of Otago