Warning for Wrightson's over Ryegrass Experiment
Share Price Warning for Wrightson's over Ryegrass Experiment
Publicity around Wrightson's investment of $3 million to develop what is being described in the media as "Genetically Engineered Ryegrass" could harm their market position and even undermine confidence in the direction of New Zealand's agricultural sector generally.
But ironically any damage to their reputation could be needless as there is doubt that the experiment can even be considered "Genetic Engineering" if it has none of the characteristics that have lead to international opposition to GE in the environment.
"Saying 'this is GE' is a death-knell for the project, yet it may not even be true" says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.
"There is no market for GE products because of what the GE techniques involve. But if this is something else without those problems Wrightson's need to make that clear or risk harming their brand".
One description of the experimental ryegrass (below) suggests that it will not have any of the charateristics causing rejection of GE. These include 1) random multiple insertions of transgenes 2) Genetic instabilty 3) Use of viral promoter sequences 4) Use of antibiotic markers 5) Potential for unexpected metabolic changes and secondary effects as a result of the GE techniques.
"If the proposed techniques genuinely have none of these problems then they need to say so as it would be far less harmful to Wrightson's reputation," says Mr Carapiet.
"If the Wrightson's proposed experiments still have the same problems then it's a wasted investment and they should cancel it immediately".
Even being associated with the GE experiments could hurt Wrightson's reputation. Other companies around the world have recently been hit by negative investor sentiment over GE. Wrightson's may also have lost out on improving its reputation as a result of reports that it had sold shares in biotech-company Genesis.
Unfortunately public funding is also being wasted on the project.
It raises the same concern as recent funding for Hubbard's Cereals. Wrightson's is a private company with huge resources, so why are taxpayers subsidising them?