02/02/2017

Public funds wasted offshore as AgResearch trials GE ryegrass in the US

 

New Zealand taxpayer research funds are being channeled to overseas partners to find a 'magic bullet' instead of being applied to practical solutions that will benefit New Zealand farmers today. [1]

AgResearch's GE rye grass has been in “development” since 2001 and was supposed to be finished and commercially available in 2004. More recently trials were undertaken in Australia in 2012. However the projected benefits are only supposition as no animal feeding trials have been done, whilst proven benefits of mixed forage have been ignored and left on the shelf.

GM ryegrass cannot address the need for smarter farm practices and adding value to exports by escaping the commodity mindset that is trapping many farmers.

Recently published research has shown that it is the process of genetic engineering that results in significant protein and metabolite changes causing liver damage and leading to organ and immune system damage in animals. A GE crop comparison study between the US and EU (which does not grow GE crops), found that yield, performance, and diversity in the US were significantly lower whilst pesticide use was significantly higher in the US when compared with the EU. [2]

"Questions must be answered about why money is being misused when there are no published accounts of previous GE ryegrass trials or evidence of their claimed benefits," said Jon Carapiet, national spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

New Zealand has benefitted from quality research using non-GE High metabolic energy rye grasses with proven safety and performance. Research by Dairy NZ showing a reduction in methane and increase in production, from available grasses and mixed forage pastures, is profiting farmers. [3] [4]

"AgResearch must be called to account. The GE ryegrass project is a costly miscalculation and has not improved the quality and resilience of the agricultural system for farmers," said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.

A systems approach based on diverse pasture plants and sustainable practices is the best way to add value to exports and live up to the reputation of Brand New Zealand that benefits farmers. AgResearch must respond to the premium for ethical GE-free products rather than going in the opposite direction.

References:
[1] https://farmersweekly.co.nz/section/other/view/kiwi-grass-ready-for-us-trial
[2] Failure to Yield - goo.gl/czIhyJ
[3] The effect of grazing high-sugar ryegrass on lamb performance Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 2015. Vol 75: 235
[4] https://www.dairynz.co.nz/media/253663/1-27_High_Sugar_Grasses.pdf

ENDS:
Jon Carapiet - National spokesman 0210507681
Claire Bleakley - President 027 348 6731

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