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Preserving Opportunities

16 August 2002
FFNZ: Preserving Opportunities

Yesterday Federated Farmers told ERMA that it supported the contained research trials proposed by AgResearch because "The research will build on that research which is already underway; and it will increase knowledge, which could benefit producers and consumers through the development and discovery of new pharmaceutical products."

"It is clear that those countries already commercially using GM technology also supply the full continuum of market opportunities from conventional through to organic, says Federated Farmer's Vice President Charlie Pedersen.

"Neither AgResearch's trial nor the current incident of suspected GM contamination of maize will undermine the ability of New Zealand to market as GM Free. Anyone who wants to claim GM free status must be able to demonstrate they have systems in place to support such claims just as the organic farmers must substantiate their claims.

"Federated Farmers consider research into GM technology is important to develop new knowledge and to ensure New Zealand has capability in this field of biotechnology.

"Farmers depend on international trade and are well aware that our competitors are using GM technology and unless we undertake such research we may not be able to use the technology if needed to maintain competitiveness.

"Clean green is just one aspect of the full range of marketing opportunities we have. New Zealand producers must produce what consumers want and my livelihood depends on my ability to produce what a consumer wants at a price that a consumer is prepared to pay. And certainly at a price lower than the consumers home farmers would produce.

Federated Farmers told ERMA that the Federation recognises the potential advantages of this new technology but agrees that NZ must ensure that our industry is not placed at unacceptable risk.

"The Royal Commission on GM concluded that it is unwise to limit our future options by pinning us irretrievably to any one approach. At the same time the Royal Commission considered a 100% organic New Zealand is not an economically viable option and it rejects the idea of New Zealand being free of all genetically modified material.

Mr Pedersen concluded by saying "The Federation does not accept the trial closes off any market opportunity offered by those seeking to exploit our relative 'clean green image' rather we see this trial potentially opening new marketing opportunities based on our relative low risk animal disease status."

ENDS


ORAL SUBMISSION MADE BY FEDERATED FARMERS OF NEW ZEALAND (INC.) TO ERMA ON THE APPLICATION FOR APPROVAL TO DEVELOP IN CONTAINMENT GENETICALLY MODIFIED BOS TAURUS

1. INTRODUCTION
I am Executive Director Policy of Federated Farmers of New Zealand. Charlie Pedersen, the federations Vice President is also appearing on behalf of the federation.

2. COMMENTS
My comments are by way of introduction and restricted to describing the federation and the process used to develop the federation¡¦s submission. Mr Pedersen will speak to the content of our submission.

The federation is a voluntary organisation of approximately 17,000 farmers. Our members represent the full range of production systems. Our current President is an organic dairy farmer. We also have a number of Maori farmer members.

In 1998 the federation adopted a policy position on Genetic Modification. This policy was developed in wide consultation with the membership. The policy has been revisited on a number of occasions including in the development of our submission to the Royal Commission. To date no change has been made to the original policy.

In a much abbreviated form our policy supports the use of the technology within agriculture provided the risks to the health and safety of people and the environment are scientifically assessed on a case by case basis.

The federation has previously submitted and appeared before the Authority on a number of submissions including GMF 98009, GMF 99003, and GMF 99004

I together with 22 Policy staff visited the Ruakura containment facility in July 2000 and saw the cloned transgenic calves held within the facility.

In developing this submission we drew upon the federation¡¦s policy and feedback obtained from a discussion paper forwarded in February 2002 to the national council, the sheep and beef council and the dairy council.

The federation¡¦s interest in the current application is two-fold:
„h We consider research into GM technology is important to develop new knowledge and to ensure New Zealand has capability in this field of biotechnology; and

„h As representative of producers who depend on international trade we are aware that our competitors are using this technology and unless we undertake such research we may not be able to use the technology if needed to maintain competitiveness.

Mr Pedersen will speak to the content of our submission and comment on particular aspects of the evaluation and review report.

1. INTRODUCTION

I am National Vice-President of Federated Farmers and a Dairy Farmer from the Manawatu. I have been a dairy and bull beef farmer for 22 years.

I am a current member of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee

I appeared before an ERMA hearing in 1999, as Chairman of Dairy Farmers of New Zealand when I submitted on the outdoor containment matters related to the Agresearch application GMF98009.

At that time the Federated Farmers suggested changes to the security standards to be applied to the containment conditions. The Authority adopted those changes.

I have visited the containment facilities at Ruakura and have since seen the transgenic stock held within the facility.


2. COMMENTS

Federated Farmers supports this application to ERMA.

„h We consider the application will:

- build on research already underway; and

- will increase knowledge which could benefit producers and consumers through the development and discovery of new pharmaceutical products.

„h We support the ¡§project¡¨ approach to this application as a sound approach that allows research to proceed within defined parameters whilst minimising the costs of the ERMA approval process.

„h Federated Farmers recognises the potential advantages of this new technology but agrees that we must ensure that our industry in not placed at unacceptable risk.

„h We consider the standard of the outdoor containment is sufficient to minimise any risk of escape; and

„h We note that no GM food products will enter the human food chain.

My further comments relate to a limited number of aspects discussed in the evaluation and review report.

Firstly, is this a development or a field trial? The purpose of a field trial is to assess potential performance in or against a normal commercial environment. In this application the animals are being held in conditions that in no way represent real farming conditions. There would be very limited information gained that would indicate the commercial viability of any project designed to use the technology being developed.

Animal welfare: The evaluation and review report correctly identifies that ERMA has no responsibility in this regard. Ruakura has an animal ethics committee and other processes in place to monitor the animal welfare aspects of all research. Federated Farmers supports this process.

Containment: Federated Farmers original submission focussed solely on this aspect. As stated earlier Federated Farmers put the Applicants proposal to the wider federation councils. In our view the containment conditions are in keeping with those already approved, and include the refinements that Federated Farmers suggested for the 1999 proposal.

We consider the outdoor containment in this facility far exceeds normal farm practice for containing cattle and there is minimal risk of animals escaping into the environment or GM product entering the food chain.

Clean Green Image: Opponents to GE technology put considerable weight to this aspect of New Zealand¡¦s marketing opportunities. Clean green is just one aspect of the full range of marketing opportunities we have. New Zealand producers must produce what consumers want and my livelihood depends on my ability to produce what a consumer wants at a price that a consumer is prepared to pay. Certainly at a price lower than the consumers home farmers would produce at. There is a considerable range of consumer requirements and a large range of economically viable market opportunities. Federated Farmers sees no evidence to support the argument that the contained trial proposed will close off any of the marketing opportunities that currently exist to New Zealand farmers.

It is clear to Federated Farmers that those countries already commercially using GE technology also supply the full continuum of market opportunities from conventional through to organic.

The National Board¡¦s recent visit to Australia highlighted the compatibility of different production systems and market opportunities.

In February/March 2002 I, together with other federation Board members visited irrigated cotton areas surrounding the Goondiwindi area of Queensland, Australia where considerable acreage of commercial production GE cotton. We visited a cotton grower who like most cotton growers in the area had dramatically reduced pesticide use by planting Ingard (Bt cotton/ GE cotton) as part of his integrated pest management programme. This particular grower advised that his neighbour was a significant and long term certified grower of a range of organic crops. When asked about the relationship with his neighbour we were told that the only adjustment he had made was in response to the neighbours request that no spray equipment be visible from the neighbour¡¦s property. Another GE cotton grower we visited, with a large farm showed us an area on his farm which had never been used to grow cotton and was well separated from his GE cotton production area. This farmer had just completed the three year conversion process for this area which allowed him to grow ¡¥biologically¡¦ certified wheat which he had sold at a premium to a market seeking GE free wheat. These are but two live examples of GE, organic and GE free farming both practically and profitably co-existing.

In our case it is perhaps New Zealand¡¦s freedom from BSE, and foot and mouth that are important. It is this relative freedom from diseases that opens up special marketing opportunity for New Zealand with regard to bio-pharmaceuticals production. Without research like that proposed by the applicant it is unlikely that New Zealand would be able to develop these important market opportunities.

In conclusion we do not accept that this trial closes off any market opportunity offered by those seeking to exploit our relative ¡¥clean green image¡¦ rather we see this trial potentially opening new marketing opportunities based on our relative low risk animal disease status.

We are happy to answer any questions.

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