3 Sep 2012

NZ urged to embrace GM technology

8:30 pm on 3 September 2012

Biotechnology researchers say the agriculture sector in New Zealand needs to embrace genetically-modified technology or run the risk of being left behind.

The Agricultural Biotechnology International conference is taking place this week in Rotorua.

Clive James founded the United Kingdom-based organisation the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

It facilitates technology transfer of biotechnology applications from industrialised countries to benefit farmers in the developing world.

Dr James says the choice for New Zealand farmers and orchardists is simple.

"For you to be competitive in the export market, you've got to have the best product, the best quality.

"If you don't invest in this technology, then you don't have access to that. You become non-competitive and lose markets and you'll end up paying the highest price for the poorest product - that's not what you want to do."

Dr James says the world is now a village and New Zealand risks becoming isolated if it does not play by the rules.

US State Department senior biotechnology adviser Jack Bobo says access to markets is very important because of New Zealand's reliance on agricultural exports.

But the Green Party says it is not necessary for New Zealand to adopt genetically-modified technology to increase food production.

MP Steffan Browning says New Zealand's food production is relatively small compared with other countries, and food producers should be sticking with traditional production methods.

The conference continues on Tuesday with presentations from leading international biotechnology companies Du Pont and Monsanto.