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Gutting Of Organic Dairying Is The Next Step To GE Farms

23 August 2011

Fonterra’s Gutting Of Organic Dairying Is The Next Step To GE Farms.

Fonterra has taken its next step towards genetically engineered pastures, with its announced scaling back of organic production by half, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.

Fonterra’s announcement yesterday of a 50% drop in support for organic dairy production, shows the dairy giant’s lack of support for good environmental practice or consumer health, and marks the next step to genetically engineered (GE) farmlands, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.(1)

“Fonterra has never really been committed to organic production, although aiming for 200 farms and a 140% increase in production from 2005. Just 200 farms was a very limited vision. Organic production across all New Zealand’s dairy herd should have been in any long term vision for clean green 100% Pure NZ,” said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Organic production has been identified as the main obstacle to introducing GE grasses and crops into New Zealand in a Ministry of Research Science and Technology (MoRST, now Science and Innovation) report written by Terri Dunahay, an international biotechnology policy specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture.” (2)

“Government also stopped real support for the organic sector following a briefing to the Agriculture Minister by Dunahay in 2009, yet Dunahay was duplicitous in every presentation I observed her. The misrepresentation of GE internationally, was appalling when Dunahay presented to Dairy NZ and the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand,” said Mr Browning.

“Dunahay and other United States lobbyists, along with New Zealand based pro-GE scientists fail to mention the significant GE contamination of non-GE farms, the loss of markets, the massive increase in herbicide use, the new resistant weeds and disease problems, higher seed and production costs, loss of biodiversity, or the human and animal health problems associated with genetic engineering (GE).”

Yesterday’s shock presentation to organic farmers in Taranaki and the Manawatu that their organically certified milk wasn’t wanted by Fonterra, because of reduced international demand, also included comment that organics caused “conventional” dairy production to be questioned as to its quality.

Best practice organics has improved soil structure and climate resilience, 43% more earthworm counts, 28% higher soil carbon sequestration, improved animal welfare, 33% less energy use, and a massive 58% reduction of nitrate leaching, yet is not valued well by Fonterra, because Fonterra’s conventional farming’s dirty environmental footprint, might be questioned more. (3)

"The KPMG Agribusiness Agenda 2011 released in June, highlighted the potential lost opportunity of high net worth customers globally by New Zealand if support for organic market and production research is allowed to languish." (4,5)

Organic dairy exports from New Zealand grew 400% between 2005-2009. Organic product sales in the USA grew 7.7% compared with total food sales increase of less than 1% in 2010, yet the New Zealand government is allowed funding for Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) to stop this June, and had already long stopped support for the Green Party initiated Organics Advisory Service that had assisted significant growth in organic certification.

“Fonterra missed retailing organic butter in New Zealand, and has failed to market its organic products well. Where was the Fonterra brands organic butter in New Zealand super market shelves? It wasn’t to be found. Blaming reduced markets when there has been continued growth in organic consumption internationally shows a lack of organic marketing commitment by Fonterra, not a lack of customers.”

“Fonterra and the government have spent millions of dollars on GE rye grass development, (6) while support has been stalled for the organic sector.”

“Most of Europe and Scandinavia and many other countries have targets for farm production conversion to organics, because the environmental and social benefits are well recognised, but in New Zealand there appears to be a blind adherence to short term economic benefit including GE, even when non-GE alternatives are proven.”

“When I asked on Friday, why the government had spent tens of millions on GE grasses, but had effectively stopped spending money on organics, Environment Minister Nick Smith told me, “We didn’t think there was any money in it,” “said Mr Browning.

“The planting of 336 GE pine trees by Scion and ArborGen at their Rotorua field trial site last week adds to the sadness of spirit New Zealand is suffering through short term financial aims by giant agribusiness, while it ignores the environmental and social health of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Soil & Health wishes to express its support for the organic farmers whose livelihoods, dedication and dreams have been shaken by yesterday’s Fonterra announcement.

“Support by Federated Farmers to resist the drive for GE production in New Zealand, a requirement of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), could reignite Fonterra’s interest in organics. The New Zealand environment and consumers of the world will say thanks.”

Soil & Health has a motto of Healthy Soil - Healthy Food – Healthy People and a vision of an organic Aotearoa New Zealand.


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