GE grass reports foreshadow potential economic losses

A report analysis showing potential economic losses by introducing genetically engineered (GE/GM) grasses, comes at a time when the government is drying up funding for the organic sector, one of the best value export growth areas, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.

The Sustainability Council of New Zealand has analysed two reports considering the introduction of GE  grasses and in an exclusive with the Weekend Herald put a strong economic case against GE grasses.   The Sustainability Council has identified up to $50 million in taxpayer money has been put into projects in developing GE grasses and with Fonterra, Dairy NZ, Beef and Lamb NZ, AgResearch and Deer Industry (NZ) and PGG Wrightson also involved. (1)

“The proposed advantages of the GE grasses exist in conventionally bred forages and organic management systems that do not jeopardise our clean green 100% Pure New Zealand brand,” said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“As a nation reliant on primary production, New Zealand has a significant point of difference internationally with no commercialised genetically engineered (GE) crops. Our best value export markets do not want GE foods or GE fed animal products. ”

“The KPMG Agribusiness Agenda 2011 released last week, highlighted the potential lost opportunity of high net worth customers globally by New Zealand if support for organic market and production research is allowed to languish.” (2)

Organic dairy exports from New Zealand grew 400% between 2005-2009. Organic product sales in the USA grew 7.7% compared with total food sales increase of less than 1% in 2010, yet the New Zealand government is allowing funding for Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) to stop this month, and had already stopped support for the Green Party initiated Organics Advisory Service that had assisted significant growth in organic certification.

Recent research has shown GE and herbicide toxins associated with genetically engineered crops are moving through from GE foods into both animal and human blood  including the unborn. Animal GE feeding studies have also shown organ damage and reproductive failure. As research results build showing such negative health effects, market resistance can be expected to build also. Several regions internationally are saying no to GE crops with some having changed from a more permissive approach. (3,4,5,6,7)

PGG Wrightson Seeds currently field trialing GE rye grass in Australia have indicated they want to be global sellers of GE forages with an early push into the large and more permissive Brazilian market. It is hoped that Ngai Tahu who are also considering organic conversion, use their new stake in PGG Wrightson to express a more principled and ecologically sensitive approach to business. New Zealand’s clean green 100% Pure brand can be maximised if our exporters show commitment to maintaining that, in their activities both in New Zealand and internationally. (8

Fonterra needs to show leadership and commit to a GE Free future, but is currently implicated by its funding of GE research activities in Pastoral Genomics and not ensuring that GE ingredients are not part of their infant formula products. (9)

Soil & Health aspires to an organic Aotearoa New Zealand that maintains a nuclear free GE free status in line with a clean green 100% Pure Aotearoa New Zealand brand.



(5)  de Vendômois JS, Roullier F, Cellier D, Séralini GE. A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health. Int J Biol Sci 2009; 5:706-726.

(8…/Seeds%20Presentation_ Overview%20of%20AgriTech%20Business.pdf


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