Global Research Alliance In New Zealand At Risk Of Unsustainable Outcomes

The New Zealand lead at the Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference, by contributing $45 million to the Global Research Alliance on agriculture greenhouse gases, has all the hallmarks of a sustainability sham and pseudo science according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.
“Unless the Government’s Centre for Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research, which is to be the New Zealand hub of the Global Research Alliance, makes a rapid switch towards organic research and development, the most immediate and sustainable solutions to agricultural greenhouse gas emissions will be wasted,” said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.
At Copenhagen the Round Table on Organic Agriculture and Climate Change (RTOACC) (1) was also established and including the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) it has an immediate focus on soil carbon with principle objectives to;
* Initiate, support and facilitate research on organic agriculture and climate change,
* Advise the international community on organic agriculture and climate change issues,
* Develop a measurement method to enable reliable quantification and certification of carbon sequestration in organic agriculture.

“Currently our government shows no sign of assisting the further development of the New Zealand organic sector, which has the most to offer for genuinely sustainable solutions in primary production, yet $10 million has already been earmarked towards unsustainable chemical attempts at dealing with nitrous oxide emissions from the over fertilized and intensive conventional farms.”
“Compared with trading partners and progressive farming focused countries such as Denmark which actively encourage growth of their organic sectors, New Zealand appears to be more strongly focused on vaccines, genetic engineering and more chemicals.”
At Copenhagen, the Danish minister of food, agriculture and fisheries, Eva Kjer Hansen, said her country had reduced greenhouse gas emission from farming by 23 per cent since 1990, while boosting food production by 16 per cent over the same period.
Earlier this year, the Danish Food Minister also said, “Organic farming is Green Growth – a combination of green production and production with a sound economy. We are now making it possible to double the area used for organic production through a massive effort amounting to almost DKr 350 (95 million NZD) a year. This will result in a greater Danish organic production of apples, carrots, milk and salami, to name a few products. And this will benefit consumers, exports, the environment, nature and animal welfare.” (2)
However in New Zealand the group behind the Government’s AgResearch hosted Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Centre, the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium has said that it wants any investment to stay with them and be for new technologies.
The Consortium in its submission to the Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee in February said, “Methane and Nitrous Oxide emissions from livestock are the result of a complex interaction of biological activities. They are the product of natural systems that have evolved over millions of years and are therefore very robust and stable. Intervening in these systems through science needs to be done in a careful and deliberate manner to ensure that there are no unfortunate circumstances.” (3)
“Soil & Health – Organic NZ agrees, but we must point out that the current path of the Consortium using risky nitrification inhibitors, methane dumbing vaccines, and animal rumen intervention is not necessary due to the proven and sustainable options provided through organic agriculture,” said Mr Browning.
“New Zealand’s farming environment and clean green 100% Pure reputation will be better served by diverting from the environmentally damaging and animal welfare unfriendly path AgResearch and its hungry partners are taking.”
“With more than $200 US million pledged by the Global Alliance of ~22 countries including $125 US million over 4 years by the United States, and an early 2010 meeting here in New Zealand, it will be tempting for AgResearch and company to try and look technologically clever while completely missing the obvious.”
“For example, proven management tools such as animal feed changes and better soil drainage can reduce nitrous oxide in livestock farms, and reducing stocking rates and breeding from naturally low methane emitting stock can make significant emissions reductions.”
“Organic farming’s higher levels of soil carbon can offset significant emissions while ensuring greater resilience for farmers during adverse climate events.”
British research shows that on average, organic farming produces 28% higher levels of soil carbon compared to non-organic farming in Northern Europe, and 20% higher for all countries studied (in Europe, North America and Australasia). A worldwide switch to organic farming could offset 11% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Raising soil carbon levels would also make farming worldwide more resilient to extremes of climate like droughts and floods, leading to greater food security. (4)
At the recent Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) conference Dr Manfred Bötsch, the Swiss equivalent of the Minister of Agriculture explained how organic farming is now fully integrated into Switzerland’s high quality management of its agriculture, environment, and landscape, and how the public benefits arising from this high quality management is paid from the public purse. The growth of organic farming now representing 11% of Swiss agricultural land has been significant in reducing excess nitrogen levels there by 25% since 1985, surplus phosphorous by 65% since 1990/92 while cutting use of pesticides by 35% since 1990. (5)
Dr Urs Niggli, Director of the world’s largest organic research institute, FiBL, also a member of the Round Table on Organic Agriculture and Climate Change (RTOACC), spoke about how long-term field experiments indicate the ability of organics to increase the soil’s capacity to store carbon, and its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, even when calculated per food unit. (6)
“Considering the growth in demand for organic and genuinely sustainable, animal friendly and residue free foods that fit with New Zealand’s clean green 100% Pure market image, expensive research investment should steer away from that which uses undesirable technologies such as genetic engineering, chemical soil interventions and vaccines that compromise animals normal metabolism,” said Mr Browning.
Soil & Health – Organic NZ has a vision of an Organic 2020 using technologies that do not compromise sustainability or animal welfare.

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