GE Free NZ has expressed concerns about the further loss of scientific expertise from AgResearch, saying New Zealand farmers will be left worse off.
The AgResearch scientific team conducting valuable ecological research into the carbon-nitrogen cycle has been closed.
In a media release this week, GE Free NZ said the research using advanced molecular techniques called Marker Assisted Breeding (MAB) identified valuable traits in plant cultivars that could conserve nitrogen or carbon.
These traits could then be bred using conventional breeding techniques, not GE, providing leading edge solutions for farmers without undermining their GM-free status.
Allowing the loss of this scientific expertise was criticised as short-sighted, showing AgResearch is failing to focus on science that suits New Zealand’s unique positioning as a producer of safe, clean, GE-free food that sets the standard for quality.
“There would be no need or justification to use GE to breed up these plants. MAB is acceptable way to speed up trait selection as long as it does not use GE cultivars to achieve its ends,” said Jon Carapiet spokesperson for GE Free NZ.
The loss of scientific research expertise, just when New Zealand is intensifying its dairying production, will place a heavy burden on farmers and cause further degradation of New Zealand’s waterways and environment through nutrient run off, Carapiet said.
The loss was concerning because the research being shut down was to have benefited all farming systems, and protected the New Zealand brand. The research also studied how rye grasses affected the soil organisms and the whole symbiotic system of carbon confinement, he said.
“The Government body funding this research has misdirected 25% of its budget to GE forage grasses that have no proof of performance or proof of safety for animals eating them or for the environment. This money is being spent despite conventionally bred perennial rye grasses with the desired traits already being grown and benefiting farmers and the environment”. said Jon Carapiet.
“This misdirected policy has come at a high cost given the loss of scientific expertise that is now occurring. The decision to disband the scientific team should be reversed.”
Carapiet challenged the government to maintain its funding for this important “proof of concept” laboratory research.