Farmers should be wary of promises of a 'magic bullet' made by Crown Research Institutes seeking funding for further development of their genetically engineered (GE) forage pastures.  Instead New Zealand farmers can benefit right now thanks to research funded by Dairy NZ showing how to future-proof pasture production by planting forage crops proven to cope with changing climatic conditions.
Dairy NZ has recommended that farmers should consider taking up "drought-tolerant alternatives to ryegrass". Pastures should include variety of deep rooting plants mixed with drought resistant grasses like fescue, cocksfoot, pasture brome, chicory, plantain, lucerne and clover. The tall fescue grass, with its symbiotic endophyte that has a buffering effect against the dry conditions, performs similarly to ryegrass for growth and quality. 
Research conducted through Massey University shows that using a mixture of these plants significantly advantages production and animal health. Importantly, the research team at Massey University has identified drought resistant plants and alternative food sources that farmers can implement immediately.
As well as future proofing for farmers, the mixed forage solution is also a boon to New Zealand seed companies who are ideally placed to grow seeds for New Zealand conditions.
"The research found that the mixed forage improved resilience to drought, lowered greenhouse gas emissions, and improved production", said Jon Carapiet, national spokesman for GE- free NZ in food and environment.
The study found that plants like chicory and lucerne that have proved to be valuable forage crops, were able to maintain the condition and health of the stock in dry conditions. In addition, trees like Willow and Poplar were found to confer multiple benefits; as a good food source and by providing a worming effect and helping with fertility. This is important, as drought can hit when mating is underway. 
�There are enormous risks to New Zealand�s future if the farming sector ignores the mixed forage solution. It is self-sabotage if the industry delays action and gambles on a genetically engineered 'magic bullet' solution in the form of GE plants being developed by AgResearch and Pastoral Genomics," said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.
�The New Zealand brand is built on the appeal to consumers of our natural, grass-fed milk production and sustainable and ethical food production. This is our market advantage and must be protected into the future."
Industry and Crown Research leaders must stop deliberately ignoring these traditionally bred proven mixed-forage solutions and start researching how to get these advantages to the farmer instead of demanding millions of dollars in funding for Genetic Engineering. The promoters of GE ryegrass offer reassurances that the novel DNA is taken from plants, but remain silent on the harm that comes from disrupting the existing genome, and from unexpected effects over the lifetime of an organism that genetic engineering techniques involve. Consumers all over the world are clear they do not want GE food, and expect better of New Zealand.
The Ministry for Primary Industries must direct R&D away from Genetic Engineering and wake up to the fact that none of New Zealand's food exporters - from Zespri to Heinz Watties and Goodman Fielder, want anything to do with GE and GMOs in food production.
New Zealand�s future agricultural success will be assured by implementing the existing non-GE alternative forage crops that have been proven in drought conditions and can be implemented right now.
 Adverse Events: Farming out of the drought http://www.dairynz.co.nz/page/pageid/2145860273/Farming_out_of_the_drought
 Forage crops key to drought planning http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/about-massey/news/article.cfm?mnarticle_uuid=29842484-96BF-57FE-A96B-0787992B4043
 Pitta DW.,Barry TN., Lopez-Villalobos N.,Kemp PD. (2004) Willow fodder blocks �An alternate forage to low quality pasture for mating ewes during drought? Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production. Volume 64, pp 67-71.
Jon Carapiet - National spokesman 0210507681
Claire Bleakley president 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731