Organic regenerative farming needed to reduce climate change, not GE

New Zealand doesn’t need a loosening of GE regulation to combat climate change, it needs significant investment in organic, regenerative agriculture, says the Soil & Health Association.

Parliament recently passed the Organic Products and Production Act, with cross-party support. This should be a springboard to revolutionise our farming and exports, but making it easier to release GMOs into the environment will jeopardise that.

“By being GE-free, we’re far from ‘missing out.’ Being GE-free gives us a point of difference in the world market,” says Jenny Lux, chair of Soil & Health.

“We already have an advantage in being an island nation in the South Pacific, and need to be really careful about any uncontrolled releases of GMOs into the outdoors. Our products are attractive to overseas buyers because they’re seen as clean, safe, natural and uncontaminated. Once we release GMOs there’s no containing them. We need to continue to safeguard our environment and our brand.”

Obvious agricultural solutions to lower greenhouse gas emissions, such as reducing or eliminating synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, have not been implemented at scale. Now there’s a renewed focus on gene technologies, which are attractive to corporates and researchers because they can be patented and commercialised.

But GE has not yet lived up to the hope or the hype. The $25 million dollar New Zealand GE ryegrass trials have not yet yielded more dry matter than traditionally bred rye grasses. These would be grown in monocultures, or with only one or two other species, which is not good for long term soil health.

“It’s already been demonstrated that diverse, mixed species pastures reduce ruminant methane emissions, and are more resilient to climate extremes,” says Jenny Lux.  “Organic regenerative farming methods are free for all farmers to adopt, and unsurprisingly, they’re not under any patents.”

Soil & Health urges all NZ political parties not to loosen regulations on GE in NZ, and instead to direct attention and funding towards expanding organic farming here. Organic regenerative farming sequesters more carbon in the soil, and uses fewer costly inputs, empowering farmers. “We need research centres dedicated to organic, regenerative agriculture and farmer extension programmes to build that knowledge in rural communities,” says Jenny Lux.

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