New Zealand’s Fast Forward must be organic

Yesterday’s government announcement of a new fund called New Zealand Fast Forward of $700 million for future research, development and innovation in the pastoral and food industries has overlooked the obvious need for organics, according to the Soil & Health Association.

“The vision is great but is too timid to say ORGANIC. The potential of this investment is massive if directed in a different direction from the past and it is encouraging that the Fast Forward Overview document says this is not about business as usual,” says Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Business as usual has had genetic engineering and soil life disruptors such as nitrification inhibitors touted as solutions to the mistakes of the past. Fast Forward with the same drivers is fast forward and out for New Zealand. Healthy vital soils and organic production is the way to a sustainable and vibrant future. With an organic focus we can future proof the economy as intended.”

As the Prime Minister’s statement said, “we heard late last year at the Primary Industries 20/20 Summit in Christchurch about the urgent need to lift economic and environmental performance across the primary sectors.”

“I also attended the summit, and the real message was not actually about the big lift in performance that would once again be unsustainable, it was a big NO to GE and a clear YES to ORGANICS, as the demographers who had identified market trends for the next two decades pointed out,” says Mr Browning. “Performance was pushed at the summit, but genuine sustainability was always part of the discussion. More does not necessitate better.”

“The Primary Industries 20/20 Summit identified the dominant market for New Zealand exports until 2030 as the first world baby boomers from North America, Europe and Japan, with discretionary cash who had a focus on ‘wellness’ and who wanted more and more of their food and fibre purchases to be sustainably and ethically produced. Good animal welfare practices, pesticide and GE free, carbon neutral, sustainable water use, and fair trade were identified as part of their preferences. Organics was identified as ideal.”

“So where is the organics in this $700 million equation? Where is the target of 10% organic production by 2012 with research and support to make New Zealand truly sustainable?”

“It appears that no one wants to upset the elephant in the room: the old guard of unsustainable primary production and the exploitive, unsustainable big corporates, with research institutes locked into the same mindset and a wasteful competitive funding structure.”

“The dollar for dollar government and industry arrangement doesn’t easily support the organic sector that has been economically disadvantaged in comparison with the conventional sector. The often unsustainable practices of the chemical-based conventional sector have externalised costs onto the community with pesticide residues, dirty waterways, land degradation and spoiling of our clean green market image. Comparative overseas countries seriously support organics for the benefits for environment, health and community.”

“Does organics only get a look-in if it is part of the giants in this new form of industry-government partnership? Can it be better than just intellectual property and nutraceuticals and GE?”

“Mr Hodgson yesterday quoted two R&D aims. The first was very positive on sustainability, and organics fits perfectly as a solution, however the second while sensibly advocating value adding, got lost in NEW ‘progress in new products, in food ingredients, functional foods, nutraceuticals, all the way to biologically derived pharmaceuticals’, and has missed what our markets actually want; natural, organic and GE free.”

“Mr Hodgson also discussed comparatives with Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and Canada and extrapolated, “A primary production base can go hand in hand with a higher technology future.” However while none of those has quite the opportunities of New Zealand and its isolation to be a truly clean and green land, Sweden and the Netherlands have government initiated organic production targets already revised upwards. For environmental benefits, community health gains and to future proof our exports, it is time for government policy to have an organic production target,” says Mr Browning.

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