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Warning for NZ as the Chinese Hit the Jackpot

Exciting innovations in salt-tolerant cropping techniques have been reported from Hainan University in China, ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff said today.

"If peer review confirms their work on irrigating crops with salt water, this work will represent at hugely significant advance in agriculture.

"Reports say that Chinese scientists using the 'pollen tube' method have transferred salt tolerance genes from mangrove into tomatoes, eggplant and hot peppers. Yields are equivalent to conventionally grown crops. Wheat, rice and rape varieties are still under development.

"There is new hope for Third World countries in these developments. Marginal lands can be brought into production and at the same time pressure for forest, clearance can be relieved. Under utilised land in coastal China could feed 150 million people using these methods. This is good news for the environment and for those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale especially those in developing countries.

"At the same time China's success is a warning for New Zealand. We cannot afford to hesitate while the rest of the world leaps ahead on an exponential curve of new knowledge. Rather than worry about the inevitable atmospheric change we should concern ourselves more with the need for a stimulating intellectual climate. Nobel Laureate Alan MacDairmid argued recently that agriculture is the future for New Zealand. Developments of the kind reported from China may benefit the rest of the world but our unique comparative advantage may be quickly eroded unless we apply ourselves with equal energy to the knowledge economy.

"The eco-fundamentalists of the "green" lobby must not be allowed to block New Zealand's participation in the challenging but highly rewarding field of biotechnology," Mr Eckhoff said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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