20 Oct 2014

Time to re-visit GE - Fed Farmers

2:07 pm on 20 October 2014

It is time for New Zealand to review the legislation which prevents the production of genetically engineered crops and pasture plants, Federated Farmers says.

The call comes from chief executive Graham Smith who outlined some of the challenges facing the agricultural sector at a Future Farms conference in Wellington today.

He said the majority of the population believe GE is bad and legislation passed 10 years ago stopped a lot of GE activities in New Zealand.

"The reality though, is that technology has moved a long way in the last decade, and so if you take plant breeding for example, there's a whole lot of new technologies particularly around gene splicing that are available and are being used overseas to accelerate the development of new plant varieties.

"But we can't use them, even though they're not introducing foreign DNA material to develop those new plant varieties."

Mr Smith said the country needs to look at legislation to ensure it is up to date with current technology and current demands and the agricultural sector needs to focus more attention on improving pasture and plant genetics.

Mr Smith told the conference another challenge for the primary sector will be resisting any moves to reduce its share of government research and development funding.

"For those that have read the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's national science investment statement, one of my take home messages from that is if the Government actually introduces that strategy, it's highly likely that dollars will be taken out of the primary sector and they'll be put into so called new 'sexy' things."

He said that's a risk when the country should be focusing its R and D efforts on strengths.