Feds say GM discussion offers solution to GHG challenge

As reports on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions continue to be rolled out, it was the government’s reaction to another report – the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on genetic engineering – that caught Federated Farmers’ attention.

Federation president and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said farmers were intensely interested in further reducing their world-leading GHG emissions footprint per kilogram of food produced.

But the federation has been saying for several years that new tools are needed to do this.

“Genetic modification is one of those new technologies that offers exciting potential,” he said.

Last year, the Productivity Commission’s ‘Reaching for the Frontier’ final report said the Government should undertake a full review of the regulation of genetic modification (GM), to ensure it is fit for purpose and supports domestic innovation.

“We certainly agreed with that at the time. And at the end of last week, there was finally a flicker of interest from the government,” Andrew Hoggard said.

He drew attention to the Government’s formal response to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry Maximising the Economic Contribution of NZ’s Frontier Firms.

The government said:

“Government has long considered that the New Zealand brand and value is best met by maintaining a ‘proceed with caution’ approach. However, we consider it timely to start informed conversations around New Zealand’s use of GM technologies.”

Mr Hoggard pointed out that GM ryegrass and – potentially – other gene editing options had been shown to offer pathways for significantly reducing livestock emissions “so it’s well past time we get on with these ‘informed conversations”,

“Producers and consumers deserve an informed discussion so that they have science-backed information on which to base their growing and eating choices.”

The release of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2020 report this week showed the need for tools and new technologies to help farmers.

“We’ve kept methane emissions relatively steady. They’ve only gone up 3.5% since 1990, and there has been no increase in the total annual methane tally since 2006,” Andrew said. The nitrous oxide story shows a steeper challenge, as is the case with carbon dioxide from transport.

As various commentators make comparisons between recent sector emissions performance, it’s important to note the inventory stats are based on data gathered months ago, Mr Hoggard contends.

“This means we are going to see some weird anomalies in the inventory reporting for the next two years, reflecting the impact of lockdowns and the traffic light controls on urban centres. And all these figures don’t do a good job of comparing short-lived methane emissions with long-lived carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.”

Source:  Federated Farmers  

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