High demand for New Zealand funded international agri-science scholarships

The latest winners of a New Zealand and CCAFS-funded international PhD scholarship have been announced following a three-fold increase in applications.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw say the increased demand clearly demonstrates the value countries place in the programme, which provides scientific solutions to reduce greenhouse gases in food production.

A total of 212 applicants from more than 50 countries applied, compared to 65 applicants from 23 countries in the previous round earlier this year.

Students will research rumen microbiology, rice production, soil science, and rangeland management, among other topics.

“The strong interest in the scholarships reflects the global desire to ensure food production systems are economically and environmentally sustainable in the face of an ever hungrier world,” Damien O’Connor said.

“The range of scientific disciplines and diversity of production systems covered by the scholarships highlights the complexity of the challenge of tackling greenhouse gases from food production.

“As an agricultural economy, New Zealand understands the importance of getting this right and the vital role that science will play. Many around the world are now looking at what agricultural expertise can deliver in terms of low-emissions food production to feed the world’s growing population.” 

Twenty-seven scholarships will be awarded to students from 17 countries who will be hosted by institutions in 15 countries, with winners announced at the UN climate talks in Poland, where Minister Shaw is attending the final week of talks at COP24 with New Zealand’s delegation.

“We’re really pleased that New Zealand is able to support this vitally important programme,” says James Shaw.

“We also want to acknowledge the support of many of our fellow GRA members and partners, particularly CCAFS, for providing exciting opportunities for these students,” James Shaw said.

New Zealand provides core funding to support the scholarship programme, which allows early career scientists to undertake 4-6 month research exchanges at institutions of GRA members and partners, including CGIAR Centres.”

The PhD scholarship programme, CLIFF-GRADS, is a joint initiative of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases  – in which New Zealand has a leading role – and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Programme for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security .

Further details are at www.ccafs.cgiar.org/CLIFFGRADS and www.globalresearchalliance.org

Source:  Ministers of Agriculture and Climate Change

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The BERG report: ministers welcome agricultural sector’s work on emissions

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw have welcomed the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG), which has been released today.

The report shows many farmers want to take action to reduce emissions, but need more information about what steps they can take.

It also shows if all farmers operated using today’s best practice, New Zealand may be able to reduce emissions by up to 10%. Continued funding for research into new, novel technologies will be important for reducing emissions further.

The Biological Emissions Reference Group Report is the culmination of two years of research into the opportunities, costs and barriers to reducing biological emissions in New Zealand’s primary industries.

The group is a joint agriculture industry-government working group of nine key organisations: Beef + Lamb NZ, DairyNZ, Deer Industry NZ, Federated Farmers, The Fertiliser Association of NZ, Fonterra, HortNZ, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and Ministry for the Environment (MfE).

In essence, BERG has looked at what lowering emissions means for the primary sector, said Damien O’Connor.

He thanked the group for taking on the challenge to help answer some big questions and said it had provided a comprehensive range of findings, from farmers’ perceptions of climate change through to views on the likelihood of new technologies being available to reduce emissions in future.

James Shaw said a key finding is that, overall, biological emissions in the future could potentially be reduced 10 – 21% by 2030 and – 48% by 2050.

That offered real hope to farmers and agricultural businesses which wanted to reduce emissions while maintaining productivity and profitability.

“It also offers real hope to a world that needs to expand food production for a growing global population but also needs to bring down climate pollution at the same time,” Mr Shaw said.

And it highlights the importance of clear government policies so farmers can make well-informed decisions about

Penny Nelson, deputy director general policy and trade at MPI, said the group saw the need for a good evidence base to support the sector to address some key climate challenges.

“Farmers were asking what practical things they can do to reduce their emissions. We needed to improve our shared understanding of the possible innovation and solutions, and the barriers standing in farmers’ way.”

Cheryl Barnes, deputy secretary, water and climate change at MFE, said it’s great that the agricultural sectors and government are working in partnership to provide information to inform discussion on these important issues.

The reference group commissioned nine new research projects. The work has already informed advice to the government on options for the 2050 emissions target, and will feed into future planning and policy. It has also been used by the Productivity Commission, the Interim Climate Change Committee, and industry.

The BERG plans to host an event in early 2019 to discuss the analysis and findings in more depth.

Source:  Ministers of Agriculture and Climate Change

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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Minister announces progress on setting a national standard for organics

A national standard for organic production will be established in  a Government bill next year, Agriculture and Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

A national standard will give consumers confidence in organic claims and businesses certainty to invest and innovate in the growing sector, he said.

It also will help grow the organic export trade as it brings New Zealand in line with international approaches to regulation.

NZ is one of only two of the top 25 organic markets in the world with voluntary rather than mandatory standards.

The global demand for organic products is increasing and NZ’s organic sector has responded with growth of 30 per cent over the past two years. It is now worth about $600 million a year.

A majority of public submissions earlier this year supported the Government’s approach of a single set of rules for organic production.

“I’m pleased we can now move ahead with the changes so our agribusinesses can extract more value from what they do as soon as possible,” Damien O’Connor said.

The Green Party has long-supported the growth of the organics sector.

“We know organics is key to sustainable land use and helps reinforce New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted producer of high-value natural products,” Primary Industries spokesperson for the Greens Gareth Hughes said.

The next step is to draft an organics bill to be introduced next year and there will be opportunities for the public and the sector to feed back at the Select Committee stage.

Mr O’Connor was joined by Mr Hughes for the announcement at the Horticulture Export Authority’s release of the report Barriers to Our Export Trade in Wellington today, following Cabinet’s approval earlier in the day.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Food Safety

Consumers to know country of origin for food under new law

A Bill that allows consumers to know where food products come from passed in Parliament  last night, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi says.

The Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill introduces mandatory labelling to provide information about the country of origin of foods.

“This labelling scheme enables consumers to make more informed decisions at the supermarket, by telling them where their food comes from,” Mr Faafoi says. “New Zealand consumers want to be well informed so we’re pleased to have been able to make this Bill proceed.

“Some members of the food industry have also been asking for country of origin labelling, which helps them to fairly identify foods produced in New Zealand and levels the playing field for producers.”

Foods covered under the Bill include fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood and meat including cured pork products such as ham and bacon.

Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor says the scheme has been designed to be easy and cheap to set up and run.

“That’s why the requirements apply only to foods with one ingredient and that are fresh, frozen, unprocessed or minimally processed – for example, cut, filleted or minced meat.

“However, the Bill has to be useful for the industry into the future so allows for the extension of country of origin labelling to other foods if needed at some later stage,” Mr O’Connor says.

Mr Faafoi says he will be consulting further on how to implement the new requirements and whether any foods need to be added or excluded. The Bill requires the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to make regulations within 18 months.

“The Government wants to make sure that country of origin labelling provides useful information for consumers and is workable for the food industry.”

The Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill is a Member’s bill that was first introduced by former MP Steffan Browning in 2016, and later adopted by Green MP Gareth Hughes.

Source:  Ministers of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Food Safety

Damien O’Connor pays tribute to 2018 Biosecurity Awards winners

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has paid tribute to the winners of the 2018 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

He described them as the people and organisations who go above and beyond to protect the country from pests and diseases “to ensure our unique way of life is sustained for future generations”.

The New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award winner was Environment Southland for its Fiordland Marine Pathway Management Plan.

The Minister’s Biosecurity Award was won by Greg Corbett, Biosecurity Manager at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Mr O’Connor said:

“Greg has shown leadership from the grassroots up for over 35 years, protecting New Zealand’s farms, forests and waterways from animal pests since 1983.”

The winners are:

  • New Zealand Biosecurity Community Award – Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Industry Award – Kiwifruit Vine Health
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Science Award – Scion: New Zealand Forest Research Institute
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Emerging Leader Award – Dr Amanda Black
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Māori Award – Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Te Rangi Iwi Trust
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Local and Central Government Award – Environment Southland
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Innovation Award – Jacson3 Limited
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award – Environment Southland
  • Minister’s Biosecurity Award – Greg Corbett

Further detail is at www.mpi.govt.nz/biosecurityawards

Source:  Minister of Biosecurity

Regulation changes allow hemp seed to be sold as food

Hemp seed can be treated as an edible seed under regulatory changes which come into force on November 12.

Announcing this today, Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor hailed the changes as great news for the local hemp industry, which has argued for decades that the production of hemp seed foods will stimulate regional economies, create jobs and generate $10-20 million of export revenue within 3 to 5 years.

Hemp is currently grown under permit and is used for fibre and hemp seed oil.

“Hulled, non-viable seeds and their products will be now be viewed as just another edible seed,” Mr O’Connor said.

Growing, possession and trade of whole seeds will still require a licence from the Ministry of Health.

The Minister said hemp seeds are safe to eat, nutritious and do not have a psychoactive effect, .

The Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015 will be amended to allow the sale of hemp seed as food.

Hemp flowers and leaves will not be permitted.

“We will continue to ease pathways for our farmers and growers to produce the finest food and fibre for the world’s most discerning customers,” Mr O’Connor said.

More information is attached as a Q&A and from the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Health.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

NAIT improvement work is ramped up with launch of consultation

Work to strengthen New Zealand’s animal tracing system to protect our economic base and unique way of life ramps up today, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said.

The National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme should have worked better during the Mycoplasma bovis response and he was determined to help transform it into an easy-to-use, world-class traceability system to keep our primary sectors and economy safe, he said.

From today, everyone who has an interest in NAIT can have a say on proposed ways to strengthen it for the future.

Earlier this year the long-awaited NAIT Review found several flaws in the system and more than half of users were not recording farm-to-farm movements.

The Government instructed OSPRI to crack on with making operational changes and fixed the NAIT Act 2012 under urgency to bring its search and inspection powers in line with other Acts to ensure compliance officers can do their jobs.

“Now we need to hear from those who use NAIT every day to tell us what changes to the law will make the system both a useful business tool and effective biosecurity tool,” O’Connor said.

“At the heart of these proposals is a shared desire by the Government, farming industries and all New Zealanders to improve NAIT to keep our primary sectors safe and ensure those blatantly disregarding the rules and putting the rest of the sector at risk are penalised.”

The Ministry for Primary Industries launched the regulatory consultation this morning at a technical briefing for farming and industry stakeholders.

It looks at ways to tighten rules around handling untagged animals, improve the use of data, and align penalties with other Acts to reflect the seriousness of non-compliance with NAIT. It also discusses longer term improvements such as including other species and specifying roles for transporters and stock agents.

Read more and submit  here by 19 December .

Source: Minister of Agriculture