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AgResearch's GE Clover A Costly Risk Ignoring Existing Solutions To Methane Reduction

The many years of AgResearch genetically engineered white clove,r bred to reduce methane emissions in animals, is delivering poor results when compared to existing multi species forage pastures.

The AgResearch white clover cultivar was genetically engineered with a gene from the hares foot trefoil (trifolium arvense) legume. The gene is expressed using the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter making it able to withstand glyphosate based herbicide applications, and transferred into the plant by a crown gall tumour bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens vector. [1] The GE clover impacted its yield, which was lower than its conventional parent.

With extensive experimental development and cost to cultivate, the intended public-interest benefits in reducing methane are poorer than the known benefits of multi multispecies forage.

"The message for government scientists at AgResearch, Fonterra, Beef & Lamb and industry players is to stop ignoring tangible actions on methane reduction we can do now, in the hope of discovering future technical fixes," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

Loza et al (2021) research on Jersey cows found that the multi species pastures reduced methane levels significantly and increased milk yield.[2] Roque et al (2021) found the seaweed supplementation reduced methane emissions over 80%. [3]

The move to feeding animals a monoculture of rye grass has led to the increase in methane production. It is time to reposition our agricultural expertise with knowledge that can be adopted today. In practical terms that means mixed legume, gras and herbal leys grown along regenerative organic principles, which do not require GE plants or pesticides, and supports the development of Brand New Zealand towards sustainable production.

Previous research has shown the compositions of soils play an important part in the accumulation of cyanide in clover. The alteration and up regulation of CT GE clover could cause serious metabolic problems in grazing animals. [4]

The GE clovers tolerance to the increased use of glyphosate based herbicides has been shown to lead to degradation of soil, chelation of vital minerals, loss of beneficial microbes and increase of pathogenic organisms. [5]
These unknown effects and pesticide applications have the potential to increase the degradation of the soil microbiome and develop pest resistance.

“The genetic engineering of glyphosate tolerance into the GE clover contradicts the global move to reduce pollution and toxins in nature,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ. 
"It is concerning that AgResearch is pursuing costly GE solutions when we need to address the climate crisis now."

The poor GE clover results are a wake-up call for industry and the Government to adopt and start implementing existing superiour solutions that do not use GE or pesticides to reduce agricultural emissions.

[1] Roldan, M., Cousins, G., Muetzel, S., Zeller, W., Fraser, K., & Salminen, J. et al. (2022). Condensed Tannins in White Clover (Trifolium repens) Foliar Tissues Expressing the Transcription Factor TaMYB14-1 Bind to Forage Protein and Reduce Ammonia and Methane Emissions in vitro. Frontiers In Plant Science, 12. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.777354
[2] Loza, C.; Reinsch, T.; Loges, R.; Taube, F.; Gere, J.I.; Kluß, C.; Hasler, M.; Malisch, C.S. Methane Emission and Milk Production from Jersey Cows Grazing Perennial Ryegrass–White Clover and Multispecies Forage Mixtures. Agriculture 2021, 11, 175. https://
[3] Roque BM, Venegas M, Kinley RD, de Nys R, Duarte TL, Yang X, et al. (2021) Red seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis) supplementation reduces enteric methane by over 80 percent in beef steers. PLoS ONE 16(3): e0247820.
[4] Ballhorn, D. J., & Elias, J. D. (2014). Salinity-mediated cyanogenesis in white clover (Trifolium repens) affects trophic interactions. Annals of Botany, 114(2), 357–366.

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