Federated Farmers president is trying to take rural New Zealand down a GE rabbithole

New Zealand food producers who are committed to producing safe, organic and GE-free foods will be scratching their heads over a Western Australian Court of Appeal decision this week.

Organic farmer Steve Marsh lost 70% of his organic certification because GE canola blew over from the neighbouring farm contaminated his crop. But the court ruled that the GE farmer was not liable – there was no obligation for them to “limit their farming activities on their own land so as not to interfere with that use of the appellant’s land.”

Federated Farmers president Dr William Rolleston used the court’s decision to push his pro-GE agenda once again. He commented that “genetic modification has been used extensively around the world, to the benefit of farmers and the environment”.

In making that statement, Mr Rolleston seems to have missed the news that a group of Hawkes Bay producers and their community have convinced the Hastings District Council to implement a 10 year ban on GE crops or trials in their region. The group, called Pure Hawkes Bay, produce hundreds of millions of dollars of product, and see being GE free as an important part of their business.

I have stayed on Steve Marsh’s farm, as I have another in Victoria that was contaminated by a waterborne GE crop during a big rain event. Contamination is inevitable once GE crops are in.

Mr Rolleston is disingenuous to suggest that the West Australian court ruling should somehow apply here. The court there found that farming GE canola according to ‘Standard Practice’ met ‘duty of care’. Marsh is left with no apparent recourse. Rolleston is happy about that, it seems; happy to have heavy herbicide-dependent cropping and GE food become the norm, over sustainable farming systems that make sense from both an economic and environmental viewpoint.

Mr Rolleston is suggesting that organic farmers should take the burden of care from protection from neighbouring GE crops should they ever happen here. However, what he chooses to miss is that conventional farmers choosing not to plant GE crops will also lose their price advantage over the lowest commodity price crop which is GE. Non-GMO is the fastest growing food label in the home of GE cropping, the USA, with organic behind that. Increasingly international consumers are reaching for non-GMO/GE.

In his comments, Mr Rolleston is dodging the massive and proven harm by the equally massive amount of pesticide that the crops are engineered or modified to resist or contain, but focusing on GE that has not been as well researched for safety, although there is increasingly independent evidence of harm from the unexpected outcomes from the genetic engineering in its own right. He seems to also miss the economic harm to the non-GE farmers whose own crops are contaminated. New Zealand farmers and consumers deserve honest facts, not spin.

New Zealand has a strong international advantage in our zero-tolerance to living genetically engineered organisms – such as seeds – and NZ organic standards such as BioGro share that zero tolerance. Pure Hawkes Bay and their council also recognise that advantage.

The only winners in a pro-GE farming world are the large agribusiness and chemical companies that control the IP, such as Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont, Syngenta, and wannabe PGG-Wrightson Seeds Ltd. These corporations do not have farmers, consumers or the environment’s best interests at heart, just profits from market share and product placement, even if it is a harmful herbicide or plant variety.

NZ farmers deserve choice, not contamination. GE removes choice. Organics, although vulnerable is a distraction from a much greater contamination issue, and a continued move to low value lowest commodity farming. While Federated Farmers may have a real membership of just 20% of New Zealand farmers according to Straight Furrow, it is very wrong to suggest it has some sort of mandate for farmer position, and even less if operating against an environmentally and economically sustainable future for New Zealand farming families.

 

9 thoughts on “Federated Farmers president is trying to take rural New Zealand down a GE rabbithole

  1. Oh…. and if it is a “crime against humanity” not to grow GMO crops, then how come we are expected to pay Monsanto for the right to do it?

    The world is filled to overflowing with people… easily twice the population NOW, as it can sustainably support. We can’t solve that problem. This is not just about GMOs…. in the long run some of them may well be OK for us as well, this is about our environment as a whole. We are already wrecking it, polluting our lakes and streams, trying always to grow more, because from New Zealand’s perspective the demand is effectively infinite. Our naught point something percent of the supply won’t affect the price or the gross disparity between needs and resources, and whatever we do, we have to do it sustainably.

    That means a lessened reliance on the herbicides, a lessened reliance on the fertilizers and supplemental feeds from outside the country, and a realistic apprehension of just exactly how much we can do. We can put our land to better use than urban sprawl, and we can protect it from over-enthusiastic intensification, but no matter what we do we cannot grow enough food to make a dent in the problems of overpopulation… we can only ruin the country by trying.

    Explanations always seem to lead down the path to lifeboat ethics problems. This is little different. The timeframe is extended from that of a lifeboat. The results are the same. There is no solution that saves everyone.

    To pursue an illusory goal at the behest of a multinational corporation to the detriment of future generations? That’s far too high a price.

  2. Oh…. and if it is a “crime against humanity” not to grow GMO crops, then how come we are expected to pay Monsanto for the right to do it?

    The world is filled to overflowing with people… easily twice the population NOW, as it can sustainably support. We can’t solve that problem. This is not just about GMOs…. in the long run some of them may well be OK for us as well, this is about our environment as a whole. We are already wrecking it, polluting our lakes and streams, trying always to grow more, because from New Zealand’s perspective the demand is effectively infinite. Our naught point something percent of the supply won’t affect the price or the gross disparity between needs and resources, and whatever we do, we have to do it sustainably.

    That means a lessened reliance on the herbicides, a lessened reliance on the fertilizers and supplemental feeds from outside the country, and a realistic apprehension of just exactly how much we can do. We can put our land to better use than urban sprawl, and we can protect it from over-enthusiastic intensification, but no matter what we do we cannot grow enough food to make a dent in the problems of overpopulation… we can only ruin the country by trying.

    Explanations always seem to lead down the path to lifeboat ethics problems. This is little different. The timeframe is extended from that of a lifeboat. The results are the same. There is no solution that saves everyone.

    To pursue an illusory goal at the behest of a multinational corporation to the detriment of future generations? That’s far too high a price.

  3. Mike

    I am unaware of any point in your argument that is actually well considered. Rolleston is by any measure of the argument, a cheerleader for Monsanto.

    Dr Rolleston WAS Chairman of the Life Sciences Network. LSN WAS an industry funded lobby group. You ARE wrong about his neutrality in this.

    http://archive.indymedia.org.nz/article/67819/life-sciences-network-some-facts

    Worse, you do not offer any countervailing advantage.

    What we see is that it is next to impossible, in the presence of GMOs, to maintain none-GMO crops and certifications. That is a problem for farmers in just about every country on the planet. We have this big advantage, we are a thousand nautical miles and more from the nearest point at which they are permitted.

    So we can stay GMO free. This allows us to sell our products at a premium, pay no license fees to Monsanto or others, and pay less to grow the crops. Crops will not be so efficiently produced but they will be GM free, and that label is an important thing justifying higher prices, in the minds of many people around the world.

    New Zealand can produce a fraction of a percent of the world’s food. Assertions that we have to (destroy the NZ environment to) produce more in order to feed the billions of people who are likely to starve no matter what we do (because we can only feed a fraction of them) are just more nonsense from a group that is paid to produce it.

    Note that in none of this am I claiming that GMOs are “dangerous”. By themselves and for the most part, I would not expect that to be the case… science tends to be conservative SO FAR. The pesticides and herbicides that are promoted alongside them are not benign. The profit motive has a corrosive effect on the care taken to prevent adverse outcomes wherever it is applied. The effort being made to remove the restrictions is little short of insanity for New Zealand. We do not need those GMOs, all they can do is reduce us to a commodity supplier of the lowest quality produce. Why the push anyway?

    Could it be that they want to make it impossible for anyone to produce non-GM food at a reasonable price?

    Yeah… I think so. It suits them to make sure it isn’t a point of difference that people might think about.

    But for us it is a one way street. Once we go down that road we CANNOT go back. You can’t unrelease the GMO. You can’t stop and say its all clean again. So the question, is asked too, “What is the rush?” and the answer is that this government is more likely to allow them to get away with ruining the country than any Labour/Green replacement. So they want it now, before it is too late.

  4. Check this site out if you think that a rational informed debate supports the safety of GMO’s. The safety issues are hidden by a corrupt and immoral campaign by tech companies with no commitment to anything but their own power and profits. I made a submission to a committee on the safety of one strain of corn for animal feed deemed safe by a short research process. I quoted two seperate studies indicating that the genome weren’t stable for some years therefore what was tested may change over a few generations but this was ignored in favour of submissions from companies with no independence from the profit.
    http://www.responsibletechnology.org/

  5. Mr Rolleston is not pro-GE per se. He is merely stating, as a well informed and educated man with a high level of experience and expertise in both the scientific and agricultural fields that there needs to be rational and informed debate on the subject. It is simply not good enough to state that the ‘science is settled, end of story.’

    The people that you and yours claim to represent deserve better than for you to push for an outright ban without debate just because you think you have made your mind up.

    Informed, orderly debate is the order of the day.

    Incidentally, try not to use the ‘all those chemicals that GE plants are bred to resist’ argument. Conventionally farmed non GE crops are exposed to far more sprayer passes containing far more active ingredients than GE crops. It will your cause no good. But as you have all the facts and wish to close debate, I assume you already knew that.

  6. Sustainability does not include GE or GMOs.

    Organic permaculture produces the greatest sustainable outcomes by design.

    Organic and non GE produce are high value.

    The clap trap press releases are not accidental.

    We have a political element in NZ that would destroy our ability to produce healthy food is they were not held in check by an educated public.

    PGG-Wrightson is an underhand promoter of Monsanto’s systemic poisons.

    Most people in NZ will suffer increased incidence of diseases as shown where ever such a regime has been allowed to operate.

    Past release of rabbits & hares, stoats, opossums, rats, mice, cats etc whether purposeful or accidental, have mapped out what a legacy of expediency coupled with ignorance and irresponsibility will do.

    We need a new national anthem extolling public education and environmentally clean sustainable activity.

    Many Public enemies have big purses.

  7. There is no excuse for GE cropping in New Zealand. None.

    We have a lower cost naturally supplied growth rate that is the envy of just about anyplace on earth. We have decent rainfall and most importantly the isolation provided by over a thousand nautical miles of ocean. We can of a certainty KEEP NZ free of GMOs far longer than any other place on earth.

    This puts us at an advantage to sell our product at a premium over our cost of production.

    The disadvantage is that we can’t sell as much. There is a natural limit to the production of the land, and there is a limit to how much land we can take under cultivation. We’re already AFAIK, pretty much there. Be that as it may, those limits stand.

    So our economy cannot be based on selling more unsustainably produced product into foreign countries, it has to be based instead on our producing more of the other stuff we currently import from those countries… and reducing the imbalances in our trade by supporting NZ workers. Such a concept.

    The end result of that arrangement is that we do wind up having “less” in terms of lifestyle and fancy bling to throw around, but we balance our budgets and keep our water swim-able and improve on the currently growing and increasingly invidious levels of inequality we currently “enjoy”. Key and his mates enjoy it I guess. They certainly promote it.

  8. Good stuff. Federated Farmers is a minority of farmers so don’t deserve the level of press they get. In all my years working on farms I don’t recall any of the progressive, productive farmers I worked for being in Federated Farmers. The only one who used the Federated Farmers employment contract template sold up because he couldn’t make it work as he was a butcher going farming for the “financial gain”. A lot of those “farmer leaders” making pro GE comments have corporate investments with their gross profits instead of investing in good land use outcomes.

  9. Federated farmers are likely to raise the Steve Marsh case (Australia) in their rebuttal at the up and coming Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan Hearing Topic 024 GMO’s
    No doubt, if Federated farmers take this line, we can only see this as a self inflicted wound since this outcome illustrates the jeopardy to organic and even natural producers if there is no planning restriction on GMO use.

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