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Loss of AgResearch Scientists is Detrimental For Farmers

Loss of AgResearch Scientists is Detrimental For Farmers

The further loss of scientific expertise from AgResearch will leave New Zealand farmers worse off.

The AgResearch scientific team conducting valuable ecological research into the carbon-nitrogen cycle has been closed down and scientific expertise lost.

The research using advanced molecular techniques called Marker Assisted Breeding (MAB) identified valuable traits in plant cultivars that could conserve nitrogen or carbon. These traits could then be bred using conventional breeding techniques, not GE, providing leading edge solutions for farmers without undermining their GM-free status.

Allowing the loss of this scientific expertise is short-sighted, and shows AgResearch is failing to focus on science that suits New Zealand's unique positioning as a producer of safe, clean, GE-free food that sets the standard for quality.

"There would be no need or justification to use GE to breed up these plants. MAB is acceptable way to speed up trait selection as long as it does not use GE cultivars to achieve its ends," said Jon Carapiet spokesperson for GE Free NZ.

The loss of scientists follows a pattern of decisions that have been detrimental. The Government agricultural department DSIR was a leader in studying forage grasses that benefited farmers, their research made New Zealand internationally famous for setting the gold standard of sustainable, clean green farming. The heritage grasses preserved diversity and were able to perform for many years compared to the performance of hybrids.

The loss of scientific research expertise, just when New Zealand is intensifying its dairying production, will place a heavy burden on farmers and cause further degradation of New Zealand's waterways and environment through nutrient run off.

The loss is extremely concerning as the research being shut down was to have benefited all farming systems, and protected the New Zealand brand. The research also studied how rye grasses affected the soil organisms and the whole symbiotic system of carbon confinement.

“The Government body funding this research has misdirected 25% of its budget to GE forage grasses that have no proof of performance or proof of safety for animals eating them or for the environment. This money is being spent despite conventionally bred perennial rye grasses with the desired traits already being grown and benefiting farmers and the environment". said Jon Carapiet.

"This misdirected policy has come at a high cost given the loss of scientific expertise that is now occurring. The decision to disband the scientific team should be reversed."

We challenge the government to maintain its funding for this important "proof of concept" laboratory research.

New Zealand has a perfect opportunity to direct funding toward sustainable agro-ecological solutions that all farming sectors in New Zealand can benefit from. It is imperative to protect the soils and waterways to ensure New Zealand's future and suit its brand and reputation long-term.

Agroecology is a highly successful systems approach and with the knowledge gained from research into understanding better pollution management we can show the world that we are dedicated to a safe sustainable system. It is this approach that will enhance New Zealand’s sustainable footprint and food values.

Crown Research Institute AgResearch has sidelined Organic and biological farming systems. AgResearch is turning into a 'me too' of Monsanto in the southern hemisphere. This is made worse by Federated Farmers president and Life Sciences Network chair, William Rolleston influencing science funding.

References:
• Why has research that could protect waterways been scrapped http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon
• Parsons A.J., Rasmussen S., Q. Liu Q., Xue H., Ball C. and Shaw C (2012) Plant growth – resource or strategy limited: insights from responses to gibberellin. Grass and Forage Science, 68, 577–588

ENDS

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