Home' Northern Outlook : April 3rd 2013 Contents 5
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It's time to talk about GM food
By GERALD PIDDOCK
NEW IDEAS: Temuka cropping farmer Michael Tayler believes New Zealand should keep an open mind to the benefits
that genetically modified food offers.
Nuffield scholar Michael Tayler is
questioning how much longer New
Zealand can turn its back on the
opportunities genetic modification
(GM) technology offers.
As part of his studies, the
Temuka cropping farmer spent
last year travelling the world
looking at new technologies.
While meeting countless
farmers, scientists and
agricultural leaders, GM and the
possibilities it offered came up
again and again, he said.
Before I left, I had no pre-
conceived ideas about GM. I just
wanted to look at what
technologies might improve yields
for arable farmers.
He became convinced that New
Zealand should at least keep an
open mind to the benefits that GM
He outlined his findings in his
report, New Technologies in
Arable Farming .
He accepts there is an
argument for New Zealand
becoming a niche producer,
targeting high-end export
markets, but questions the
viability of New Zealand
positioning itself as a non-GM
country long term.
Many surveys show that
consumer attitudes to GM crops
are softening, albeit slowly. If that
trend continues we may well be
left producing for a shrinking
market, while our competitors
embrace the new technologies,
leaving us at a competitive
He was convinced New Zealand
would one day grow GM crops, but
it would need consumer
acceptance for it to be done
New Zealand shouldn t blindly
turn its back on it.
We should at least have a look
at it, but the key will be to get the
public on board.
Overseas surveys showed that
attitudes towards GM food were
becoming more favourable, he
There would be increasing
pressure on agriculture to lift
production, in the wake of world
food shortages brought about by a
growing world population.
GM technology was one of the
tools farmers could use to feed
He believed it was possible for
GM, conventional and organic
farming systems to co-exist.
If organic and conventional
farming systems could operate
side by side, GM and non-GM
farms could do so, too, he said.
There is no doubt there will be
challenges, but there is already
co-existence of GM and non-GM in
He pointed to the development
of genetically modified wheat that
was aphid-resistant, as an
example of a crop that could
benefit New Zealand farmers.
Growing it could save thousands
of dollars in insecticide costs,
creating environmental benefits
as well as financial ones.
New Zealand needed to have a
mature, reasoned debate over the
pros and cons of GM.
It was also time for another
high-level study into GM in New
The first occurred in 2001 when
a Royal Commission report was
released, he said.
We need to have a look at it
because in 10 to 15 years time, the
bulk of the food produced in the
world may be genetically modified
and...wecould be left behind.
Ultimately the markets and the
consumers would decide.
The easiest way to stop GM food
would be for people to stop buying
it, but demand was growing
worldwide, he said.
New Zealand farmers could
cherry-pick proven technology and
still maintain the country s clean,
green brand integrity.
It is an emotive topic, but I
believe everyone has the right to
choose. I m not saying we should
jump in to GM boots and all, it s
not the silver bullet.
However, there is some
exciting stuff out there that s
happening with GM.
How long can we afford to
Waitohi hearings begin
HURUNUI LANDOWNERS will be
on tenterhooks this month as the
resource consent hearing for the
long-awaited Waitohi Irrigation and
Hydro Scheme (WIHS) gets under
The Environment Canterbury
hearing to decide whether North
Canterbury will gain a water storage
scheme capable of bringing in $160
million in new GDP for the Hurunui
district began today and could run
for three weeks.
The company applied for resource
consent for the WIHS nearly 18
months ago and this week s hearing
sees HWP experts begin to present
evidence about how the scheme will
develop and integrate with the local
environment. Hurunui residents
supporting the application will also
speak at the hearing in the next
Research suggests storing water in
the Waitohi catchment is considered
to have less impact on
environmental, cultural and
recreational values than other sites
considered in the Hurunui District,
Hurunui Water Project chairman
Mike Hodgen says.
Water quality and quantity of the
Waitohi catchment may improve
with more regular flows and aquatic
ecosystems may benefit from
planned flushes of the river.
Those interested in the resource
consent hearing can access daily
updates on the Environment
Canterbury website, eecan.govt.nz.
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