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NZ Courts Disaster With GE Fodder Crops

NZ Courts Disaster With GE Fodder Crops While Existing Solutions Ignored by AgResearch (http://press.gefree.org.nz/press/20140320.htm)

The announcement by AgResearch that they are seeking in the near future to field test GE fodder crops that contain high levels of "blockbuster" traits, is short sighted and poses a threat to farmers and exporters.

New Zealand has already completed robust research into fodder crops that contain condensed tannins and lipids. These crops are already being grown in New Zealand and include forage grasses and legumes such as trefoil, sulla, a large variety of clovers and lucerne. Research has shown that they not only boost milk production but reduce the worm load and methane emissions. [1]

AgResearch's experiment with GE rye grass is twenty years too late, because conventionally bred forages with these benefits are already on the market, and benefiting farmers today. AgResearch is doing nothing that selective breeding has not already delivered but their GE research brings disadvantages of loss of farmer sovereignty over their land and enforces the life long yoke of technology agreements of biotech seed corporations. New Zealand farmers will be left to manage soil degradation, weed and pest resistance and low yields, as has occurred overseas.

"It is alarming that AgResearch spends 25% of its funding money on costly genetic engineering research instead of supporting alternatives that have real benefit to farmers and consumers," said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-free NZ in food and environment.

"This research does not preserve the opportunity of farmers to stay GE-free and has the added cost of patents that make the seed very expensive. Are the research organisations willing to bear the cost of court action for contamination of the country side and loss of exports, or will the GE ryegrass contain the sterility gene that will destroy the ability of rye seed to produce a second generation?"

The GE fodder crop offers no new solution or benefit to New Zealand, but substantial risks. Any hint of GE-fed animals has the potential to collapse the export market to Europe and Japan as there is strong consumer rejection of GE foods as well as products from animals raised on GE feed.

Farmers can benefit right now from mixed pastures of rye, cox foot and tall fescue grasses that confer drought tolerance as well as naturally containing high levels sugars and both saturated and unsaturated lipids [2]. Leys containing plantain and chickory with the mixed grasses and legumes can provide a balanced and healthy pasture for stock without the risks of GE crops.

Today, grass fed animals have diets high in Omega fatty acids and Vitamin E than grain fed animals. This is because omega-3 (linoleic and linolenic acid) fatty acids and Vitamin E are formed in the green leaves (specifically the chloroplasts) of the pastures plants. Sixty percent of the fat content of grass is a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic or LNA. [3].

Red clover containing condensed tannins and lipids has been shown in published studies to have a positive effect on rumen development that leads to higher milk and meat production without the need to be genetically engineered [4].

"For farmers to provide a balanced diet for their animals, and to be resilient to drought, the solution is to grow a diversity of forages and pasture. It is time that the AgResearch stopped funding an unwanted and failing technology that ignores research that has identified the best mix of grasses."

To date millions has been spent trying to find a magic bullet "GE" solution to controlling nature and the commons but nothing has come close to existing non-GE diverse solutions. These are already providing the 'blockbuster' nutrition for animals which AgResearch is claiming to be trying to develop.


[1] Mountfort M., (2003) Methane mitigation Dairy Exporter; p56.

[2] Daley C., Abbott A., Doyle P., Nader G and Larson S.(2010) A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutr J. 2010; 9: 10. Published online 2010 March 10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-10. Synopsis by NZPA - http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/study-finds-grass-fed-cows-produce-healthier-milk-123936

[3] Miri P s., Bittman s., Hunt D., Entz T and Yip B., 2006 Lipid content and fatty acid composition of grasses sampled on different dates through the early part of the growing season Can. J. Anim. Sci. 86: 279–290.

[4] Halmemies-Beauchet-Filleau A, Vanhatalo A, Toivonen V, Heikkilä T, Lee MR, Shingfield KJ. Effect of replacing grass silage with red clover silage on ruminal lipid metabolism in lactating cows fed diets containing a 60:40 forage-to-concentrate ratio. J Dairy Sci. 2013 Sep;96(9):5882-900. doi: 10.3168/jds.2013-6872. Epub 2013 Jul 10.


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