by Steffan Browning
PGG Wrightson is controlling shareholder Agria’s push to have the two companies’ seed divisions merge into an international seed company rivalling controversial genetic engineering giant Monsanto. It’s a disturbing development for New Zealand’s future.
Neither genetic engineering (GE) or Monsanto have anything to offer New Zealand’s reputation as a provider of the safe, nutritious, sustainably produced food that our best value customers want. Having overseas dominated PGG Wrightson following that path fails a responsible vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.
PGG Wrightson has been experimenting with GE grasses in Australia and has had a strategy of developing a patent based dominance in GE pasture crops for several years. PGG Wrightson has purchased several South American seed companies and intended to begin its GE roll out in Brazil where regulatory safeguards for GE are low and a potential huge market exists.
Monsanto has gained dominance internationally with a strong arm approach enforcing its legal rights obtained through patents on its GE seed. Many farmers have been sued for royalty infringements because of contamination or saving seed from crops containing Monsanto’s GE technologies.
Patent based GE seed has caused significant contamination disputes internationally, has restricted seed choice for farmers, is questionable in terms of animal and human food safety, and has resulted in more chemical use and less sustainable agriculture practices.
PGG Wrightson was recently awarded $7 million Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) government money for further seed business development. Surely the foreign ownership (Agria is Chinese owned) approved by the Overseas Investment Office would be expected to do the investment, not the tax payer at the expense of other New Zealand businesses.
Going down the GE seeds path as Wrightson and now clearly Agria want, is not useful for the New Zealand brand which has a clear international distinction of being GE Free. Monsanto has very bad press internationally and has caused much pain to farming families and communities around the world.
New Zealand has a long reputation as an excellent seed developer and can develop this further, but in a way that promotes New Zealand’s clean green 100 percent pure brand so that all New Zealand benefits – farming families, tourism and exporters.