Experts discuss what must be done to meet Predator Free NZ pest target

The Science Media Centre has mustered a raft of experts to comment on  the Government’s announcement six months ago that it would aim for a Predator Free New Zealand by 2050.

The experts were asked about the tools needed to pull off the plan and what the hurdles to success might be.

Genetic modification is among the technologies brought into considerations.

The Science Media Centre has just published the questions to and responses from

– Professor Neil Gemmell, University of Otago;

– Assistant Professor Kevin Esvelt, MIT;

– Dr James Russell, University of Auckland;

– Dr Andrea Byrom, Director, Biological Heritage National Science Challenge<;

– Professor Carolyn King, University of Waikato;

– Professor Charles Daugherty, Victoria University of Wellington;

– Professor Phil Seddon, University of Otago.

Dr James Russell, a conservation biologist, said eradicating the eight targeted mammals would not only benefit native species but also would extend to primary industries – where invasive pests are vectors of disease – as well as offer boosts to tourism and public health.

Generally, the economic benefits of eradicating these eight species were predicted to outweigh the costs, “especially when you consider that we already invest millions every year in their control just to stay in a ‘holding pattern’.”

Professor Neil Gemmell, Professor of Reproduction and Genomics, said he suspected genetic technologies would be the key to developing pest control that is species-specific, works at a large scale, and is cheap and persistent.

“Prior work surveying people’s view on issues such as possum control suggests that there is more public support for tools that might impair an animal’s fertility compared with any other form of manipulation or control measure that may cause the animal harm and suffering.”

Professor Phil Seddon, Director of the University of Otago’s Wildlife Management Programme, similarly said:

“I think the general public might be more accepting of GMOs for conservation than some people think – we need to give an informed public a chance to consider the issue.”

The questions to and answers from each of the experts can be found here.

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