17 Mar 2014

Greens attack AgResearch GE spend

3:31 pm on 17 March 2014

The Green Party is criticising AgResearch for what it says is its un-natural level of spending on genetic engineering experiments on livestock and forage crops.

But AgResearch says its GE work is bringing non-GE benefits to farmers.

Green primary industries spokesperson Steffan Browning says AgResearch is spending too much of its budget on genetic engineering.

"We're very concerned that for a country that's got a clean, green 100 percent pure image and that relies on that for a lot of its export markets is having its principal production primary Crown Research Institute spending 25 percent of its forage budget on genetically engineered cropping.

"It's also spending 10 percent of its livestock budget on GE animals. That's not really what our community expects or wants and it's certainly not what our market wants."

AgResearch's science group leader for forage improvement, Tony Connor, says the organisation's GE forage work, which involves introducing foreign DNA into pasture plants, is about bringing benefits to farmers.

He says, for example, there are high sugar grass seed products on the market that are not genetically modified but some of the science that helped in their delivery involved a GM component to understand the importance of that trait in grasses.

The Green Party is also critical of AgResearch's GE animal programme.

It says a number of GE goats and calves are born with severe deformities and it's alarmed AgResearch is getting baby goats to start lactating within several months of being born.

However, AgResearch says everything it does is with Animal Ethics Committee approval.