The $321 million Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) funding announced yesterday would have significant potential for genuine sustainability and Brand New Zealand, if organic and biological farming systems were the focus of the investment, however if focus is on more synthetic intellectual property and commodity hyper-production under a guise of sustainability, an opportunity will once again have been lost, according to the Soil & Health Association.
“The $151 million red meat bid which is in part consumer focused, can easily be directed to the global growth in high value consumer demand for genuinely sustainable and organic, animal friendly and GE free production,” said Soil & Health –Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.
“Government targets for conversion to certified organic production and reactivating the successful Green Party initiated Organic Advisory Service that government has allowed to lapse, would be a method to increase environmental sustainability and animal welfare improvements while adding value to existing production.”
“The PGP bids as outlined read like a potential magic solution to the many contradictions by mainstream dairy farming to New Zealand’s clean green 100% Pure export and tourism brand dairy. However clean green or organic was not mentioned.”
“Following the best value consumers should lead away from reliance on high volume fertilizers and dietary and rumen interventions including current off label use of ionophore antibiotic growth promoters, unsustainable pastoral bandaids such as nitrification inhibitors or dreams of genetically engineered (GE) pastures.”
“DairyNZ’s May conference included blatant promotion of GE pastures with not an organic or biological farming option provided. This is absolute foolishness and a recipe for brand disaster,” said Mr Browning.
“DairyNZ’s use of a United States Department of Agriculture staff member involved internationally in promoting the interests of global GE companies such as Monsanto, showed a lack of understanding of consumer preferences and lacks credibility with the USDA once again found guilty of violating environmental protection requirements in GE crop releases.”
“This combines with recent proof of gene-flow contamination of canola throughout North America, and a subsequent back down by GE seed giant Monsanto from its attempt to release GE canola into South Africa because it couldn’t supply the required evidence that gene flow contamination wouldn’t occur.”
“DairyNZ needs to move well away from anything that looks like GE and come knocking on the organic door to produce the product that global consumers are moving to. Research is always useful, but what DairyNZ needs most is extension, providing support for farmers to convert to organic production.”
‘Reduced vet bills, feed self reliance, increased carbon sequestration and climate resilience, better animal welfare, farmer lifestyles and self-esteem, seem a better proposition than more research, bad advice and greedy IP from those that have created the problems and unsustainable hyper-production currently supported.”
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Director General Murray Sherwin says the latest round of approvals illustrate the huge potential that exists across New Zealand’s primary sector and a new level of collaboration for broader benefit.
“PGP is not about funding industry to do what they have always done. It’s about investing in forward-thinking, visionary business plans that have the potential to transform our primary sectors and bring about substantial and sustainable economic growth.
“Both proposals have a strong focus on meeting market expectations, on sustainable production processes, innovation and a “whole of value chain” perspective,” the Director’s media release said.
However Soil & Health is concerned that the MAF Director General and key DairyNZ staff make sure that those words are not flakey sustainability ideas supporting new chemical and microbial fixes, and unnatural pastures or animals.
“Can the next decades customers really believe that New Zealand will not be using clones, GE pastures and rumen fiddled animals?” asks Mr Browning.
“Fonterra, PGG Wrightson, Dairy NZ and other PGP partners need to be unequivocal about their GE position.”
“It is notable none of the PGP partners or Agriculture Minister David Carter used the clean green image or 100% Pure brand in their media releases yesterday. How genuinely sustainable is the innovation mooted through the mega-millions going to be? Is the cultured advice still coming from the same science dinosaurs?”
The Soil & Health Association of New Zealand Inc is in its 70th year, and is the largest membership organisation supporting organic food and farming in New Zealand, and as such advocates for healthy and safe food and environmental sustainability. It has a vision of an Organic 2020 that does not include GE food, animals, trees or crops, rumen disruption, nitrification inhibitors, or cloned animals.