17/07/2018

GE Ryegrass Trials Results An Illusion

 

GE ryegrass is still at the starting line, after unimpressive results from US field trials. Approval was given in April 2017, for a one-year trial in the US state of Missouri, but AgResearch costly GE ryegrass field trial has not been able to measure any significant outcomes.

AgResearch's GM rye grass has been 'in development” since 2001 and was intended to be commercially available in 2004. More recently trials were undertaken in Australia in 2012, the outcome is confidential. After 17 years of promises for GE Rye grass the benefits remain just supposition, with no proper safety evaluation of impacts on the environment, or animal health.

US farmers are fearful that pollen from the unregulated GE grass trials might contaminate their farms, in the same way the escape from field trials of unapproved Roundup resistant GM grass is afflicting farmers as it spreads uncontrolled across Oregon. [1]

GE ryegrass cannot address the need for smarter farm practices. The pursuit of a GE 'magic bullet' is diverting vital funding for development of alternative forage crops with proven benefits. [2]
The New Zealand pastoral industry is funding the GM ryegrass trials to the sum of $25 million. This is a slap in the face for farmers who are facing the dire situation of culling their animals due to the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak. It is disappointing that funders - Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) and Dairy NZ - have deliberately sidelined and ignored the proven qualities of NZ own valuable research. [3]

"There is an opportunity cost in pouring money into GE that deprives farmers of real needed help," said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ (in food and environment).

"Since the idea of GE ryegrass was first conceived advantages provided by quality mixed forages and non-GM High metabolic energy rye grasses with proven safety and performance have been disregarded," said Claire Bleakley.

"AgResearch must be called to account. The GM ryegrass project is a costly miscalculation and has not improved the quality and resilience of the agricultural system for farmers."

A systems approach based on mixed forage plants and sustainable practices is the best way to add value and resilience that lives up to the reputation of Brand New Zealand that benefits farmers.

References:
[1] https://www.hcn.org/issues/50.11/plants-genetically-modified-grass-creeps-across-eastern-oregon

[2] Pembleton KG, Hills JL, Freeman MJ, McLaren DK, French M, Rawnsley RP (2016) More milk from forage: Milk production, blood metabolites, and forage intake of dairy cows grazing pasture mixtures and spatially adjacent monocultures. J Dairy Sci, 99(5):3512-3528. doi: 10.3168/jds.2015-10542. Epub 2016 Feb 28.

[3] https://www.nbr.co.nz/article/new-ryegrass-could-end-gm-test-case-fr-p-216870

ENDS –
Jon Carapiet - National spokesman 0210507681
Claire Bleakley – President GE Free 027 348 6731

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