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Nature Farming & Effective Microorganisms Conf.

14 January 2002 Hon Jim Anderton Speech Notes

Nature Farming & Effective Microorganisms Conference

9:20 am
Tuesday 15 January 2002
Opening Address to International Conference
"Nature Farming and Effective Microorganisms"
Christchurch Polytechnic, Madras Street

Thank you for the opportunity to give the opening address of this conference.

I have a strong interest in the ways that New Zealand can continue to develop an economy which is sustainable.

We need to have growing employment while improving our natural environment, and strengthening our communities.

Since becoming the Minister for Economic, Industry and Regional Development I have visited many industries and regions.

On these visits I have seen time and time again how the New Zealanders who are seeking to improve our country are innovative and creative.

Organic agricultural initiatives present significant opportunities for this country. I have met individuals and visited communities across New Zealand which are investigating how they can produce food that is safe and free of harmful chemicals and toxic materials.

The growing use of natural Microorganisms in waste management promises huge benefits, particularly for New Zealand and the clean green environment we have sought to develop.

Agricultural initiatives and waste management opportunities fit well within this Government’s goals for sustainable economic development in New Zealand.

'Sustainability' can be a hard concept to explain.

It is discussed in government daily, as it echoes more and more in other corners of New Zealand and around the world.

It is certainly a fashionable concept.

But that in itself is neither a recommendation, nor a criticism.

In my view, sustainable economic development is being talked about because it's an idea whose time has come.

We understand it to mean : "Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

That was the definition adopted by the Labour-Alliance Coalition Government last year.

It's a definition that first came to notice in a 1987 UN publication called 'Our Common Future'.

Protecting our environment and using resources wisely are important goals.

I understand that the background to Kyusei Nature Farming, which contributes a significant element to this conference, has a strong lesson for New Zealand.

Nature farming was developed in Japan.

According to the Asia-Pacific Natural Agriculture Network website, for many years, the results were not sufficient to provide adequate food for the majority of the population.

This changed in the 1980's, when Professor Teruo Higa introduced the concept of Effective Microorganisms.

Beneficial microorganisms were cultured and used as a means of improving soil conditions. These microorganisms suppress disease inducing microbes and improve the efficiency of organic matter utilisation by crops.

By 1989 results were so successful that an international conference was organised and the Asia Pacific Natural Agriculture Network was formed.

The primary aim of the Asia Pacific Natural Agriculture Network is to establish an international network of scientists in the Asia Pacific region, which will promote research, education and new technologies to develop natural agricultural science and practice.

The lesson is that science and technology, particularly biological science, can have a huge beneficial impact on our communities.

New Zealand is learning and benefiting from your innovative and important work. And of course New Zealanders are contributing to natural farming development.

Christchurch recycles green waste using organic technologies. I understand delegates will hear more about this experience from Christchurch City Council staff during the conference.

Ways to improve how we produce food are of great interest to New Zealand.

Agriculture is an important part of our economy, worth around $12 billion per annum and making up around 45 per cent of our exports.

A stronger organic industry could have significant economic returns for us here.

As we start this conference I am mindful of the current debate, both globally and in New Zealand, on genetic engineering.

This Government has adopted a regime to safeguard our environment from genetically modified crops.

Let me reiterate that this Government has ensured that there will no release of any genetically modified material for at least two years, and even then, nothing will be released until it is proved to be safe.

Under the new conditions which were proposed by the Alliance Party, which I lead, all material associated with any trials in the laboratory or in the field must be removable.

This goes a lot further than the previous moratorium which only required that heritable materials be removed.

Also we now have a compulsory requirement for inspection and monitoring of all GM research.

This Government is adamant that GM research must not contaminate our environment while so many risks remain unknown.

We have argued for the safe and sensible containment of GM research in the absence of certain safety.

At the same time we need to broaden the debate. We need to pursue organic and non genetically modified farming technologies.

This Government and the Alliance Party are committed to the organics industry.

In April 2001 Parliament was presented with the Report of the Primary Production Committee on its Inquiry into Organic Agriculture in NZ.

This report recommended that a national minimum standard be developed that will certify New Zealand produce to ensure access to high value markets and ensure better consumer labelling.

This was adopted and $250,000 was allocated last year by this Government.

Standards New Zealand is now developing this standard.

Also last year, in September, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry published a report from their Organics Working Group.

This report recommends development of a national strategic plan for the organics industry.

This is similar to the development of plans for other industries which are being led by this Government.

I have already established processes as Minister for Economic Development to create industry plans for key transforming industries such as wood processing, manufacturing, clothing, textiles and footwear.

At the time we established the list of transforming industries I also identified biotechnology. Biotechnology is defined as the use of living things, especially cells and bacteria, in industrial processes.

As we ensure we have safeguards to prevent GM entering our environment we also need to pursue the benefits of non GM technologies.

My colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Jim Sutton, announced $80,000 for the national strategic plan for the organics industry and the terms of reference will be finalised in the coming weeks so that the plan can be completed before the end of 2002.

Your conference provides an excellent opportunity to raise debate on these issues again.

It also provides an opportunity for us to learn from you and make the most of your experience.

The knowledge that you bring with you here today is of great importance to New Zealand.

We are very good at learning from others and then adapting and hopefully making it even better.

Meeting Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore – example.

I think New Zealanders are among the most creative people on this planet.
In March 2002 there is an innovation event here in Christchurch to showcase and promote that innovation.

I welcome and acknowledge your innovation and pioneering spirit.

I wish you well for the rest of the conference and have great pleasure in declaring it officially open.

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