Predator control, 1080 and Green refusal to allow GE science

The Provincial Growth Fund seems to be in part a fund for whatever policies Shane Jones wants to promote. And so it seems with a predator control announcement.

But funding for innovative new means of control seems to be suffering, with Jones and NZ First wanting to move away from use of 1080 use , but the Greens refusing to allow research that has anything to do with genetic modification.

Newsroom:  Political dead rat a win for 1080 protesters?

Tired of being harangued by anti-1080 campaigners, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is welcoming a $19.5 million Provincial Growth Fund investment to be spent on the development of new predator control tools and techniques as alternatives to the pesticide.

The funding will be used by Crown-owned Predator Free 2050 to encourage research and development of new tools, as well as to contract predator control projects for rural and forested land.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said it would help “stimulate rapid innovation” hopefully resulting in more effective traps, lures, remote sensing, surveillance and data management technologies. The Government hopes these new innovative techniques will reduce the need for 1080 to maintain predator-free status in areas where predators have been eradicated.

Sage was keen to emphasise that the Government was not backing down on 1080, but looking for innovative alternatives to use in addition to the pesticide, which has been the focus of nationwide protests, marches and the reported abuse of DOC staff.

However, comments by Shane Jones, and posts on the New Zealand First Facebook page, may give heart to anti-1080 campaigners that their protests have swayed the Government’s coalition partner – even though the funding of new pest-control technology is something that has long had all-party support.

On Facebook, the party is promoting the investment, with posts reading: “We’re doing our best to render 1080 redundant. New Zealand First has maintained its opposition to 1080 and that with adequate resources, research and development into alternatives, we can replace it.”

Northland is home to many of the anti-1080 protesters, as well as to Jones.

There seems to be conflicts between Greens and Jones on the us of 1080.

But what are the realistic alternatives to 1080?

Newshub:  Govt blocking breakthrough technology that could make New Zealand predator-free

There’s a major roadblock within the Beehive over the role genetic engineering (GE) could play in a predator-free New Zealand by 2050.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has stopped any and all work being done to use GE technology, despite official advice suggesting it could be used to help rid New Zealand of predators.

But Ms Sage told Newshub she is not interested in going down the GE “rabbit hole”.

“We want to focus on existing tools, making them better and finding new tools without being diverted down the potential rabbit hole of GE research.”

Officials have signalled GE could be an effective alternative to 1080.

“It could be efficient and much more cost-effective method of pest control than conventional approaches.

“For potential application to replace knockdown tools such as aerial 1080, they would be most effective for short generation pests such as rodents, and less effective for longer generation pests such as stoats and possums, due to their requirement to spread over generations.”

Despite that, Ms Sage penned a Letter of Expectation to Predator Free 2050 Limited, explicitly telling the company not to invest in research into the technology.

The letter:

Newshub’s also obtained a number of emails written by the minister that reveal her personal position on the technology.

In one email, she wrote: “Please be assured that the department is clear about my expectations regarding genetic technologies. It has informed me that there is no mammalian gene drive technology research currently occurring in New Zealand.

“I have also required Predator Free 2050 Ltd to carry out appropriate due diligence on any co-funded projects before agreeing on any contracts, and have explicitly required them not to be involved in any research with genetically modified organisms and technologies such as CRISPR or gene editing.”

In another email, the minister made a similar comment: “I have been clear about my expectations regarding such technologies.”

Official advice also said the technology has the potential to control pests “in a humane and efficient manner without inadvertently harming other species like native birds”.

But Ms Sage told Newshub the Government isn’t blocking work in the area, there’s just been no decision to advance any discussion in the area.

“There’s no public mandate to do any work in that space – it would be a major change in Government policy.”

So is it Government policy that any research into predator control involving genetic modification is banned?

National’s conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie said the Government is refusing to look into the potential benefits because it’s blinded by ideology.

“I think she’s been captured by her ideology, [and] that’s not a good thing,” Ms Dowie said.

“National’s all about the science. We think good science should inform conservation policy, and if we want our children to experience kiwi, tui, takahe in the wild – because that’s a New Zealand legacy – we need to have these conversations and make a decision moving forward.

It seems that while Greens are in Government science is limited to what fits within their rigid ideologies, which includes a staunch anti-GE stance.

Genetic modification is also contentious as a potential means of reducing carbon emissions.

11 Comments

  1. David Seymour sort of made some valid points on this but his media release looks too much like an over the top rant about socialism versus free markets.

    https://www.act.org.nz/greens_science_takes_a_back_seat_to_socialism

  2. adamsmith1922

     /  19th February 2019

    Sage’s attitude is why the Greens in their present form should never,ever have any political power at all. They are dangerous bunch of lunatics with their anti science and anti knowledge approach,coupled with major hypocrisy over environmental issues generally.

  3. Zedd

     /  19th February 2019

    I think Eugenie/Grns are stuck between ‘a rock & a hard place’: GE or mass poisoning

    I think this ‘Totally GE-free’ rhetoric could be seen as extremist, esp. if it could be an option as ‘pest control’ as opposed to indiscriminate use of 1080 etc. ?

    btw; I do support the ‘Green kaupapa’, but being in a MMP Govt. does need; more flexibility.. ‘you cant always get what you want.. but if you try sometime.. you might find.. you get what your need’ 🙂 😀

    • Gezza

       /  19th February 2019

      I think this ‘Totally GE-free’ rhetoric could be seen as extremist, esp. if it could be an option as ‘pest control’ as opposed to indiscriminate use of 1080 etc. ?

      Yes, it could be. Is that how you see it?

  4. NOEL

     /  19th February 2019

    “But Ms Sage told Newshub she is not interested in going down the GE “rabbit hole”.
    Whoa Needy…. the object of MMP was to allow concensus decision making in place of the FFP ideological swings and roundabouts.
    Time the Green Ministers had a refresher on who they represent as a Minister.

  5. alloytoo

     /  19th February 2019

    Lets get these fanatics away from the environment.

  6. PDB

     /  19th February 2019

    This sort of nonsense shows why there is a need for an alternative environmental party focused on what’s best for the environment & not driven by far left-wing ideology.

    • Gezza

       /  19th February 2019

      How is being anti-GE a far left thing? Seems to me to be more of a personal, or group-think, nutter eco-warrior /anti-science luddite thing.

  7. Kitty Catkin

     /  19th February 2019

    It’s all her, her, her…doesn’t anyone else have a right to say anything ?

  8. Ben Waimata

     /  19th February 2019

    I support very few Green Party policies but this makes sense from a marketing point of view. GE pest control, I mean surely everyone can see the potential of catastrophic issues if any GE population control mechanism unexpectedly crossed species? I want grand kids one day… Even if it was proved that this would not happen, are we sure there would not be scare that stopped our tourist industry? We don’t want the pests, but GE solutions are not the only option, and the unintended consequences could be severe.

    As for GE generally there are some markets that we will find it hard going to sell GE food into. By contrast there are some markets wanting GE-free food. I am totally convinced most of the organic food premium is in reality a GE-free premium, organic certification being the only common GE-free certification.

    Here’s my horror GE scenario that sounds good until you think through the consequences; someone develops a GE wheat that produces on 30% less water. Sounds great eh? So GE drought proof super wheat is grown across large parts of arid lands, massive areas of Australia, China, Russia, Africa suddenly produce huge amounts of wheat. 30% less water usage does not mean 30% more crop, it means the crop is spread over huge areas of previously useless land. Wheat production could easily double, maybe triple. Suddenly cheap wheat is everywhere. Market forces come into play, the price drops dramatically. An abundance of cheap GE wheat (forage, straw and grain) means the development of massive feedlots for dairy and meat production. Huge increase of meat and dairy, prices drop dramatically. NZ GE food producers are attempting to sell food on a saturated market, many farms go broke, GDP drops, everything is a mess. Farmers need to produce massively more to get same income causing massive environmental issues. You think this is unrealistic? Remember the massive drop in dairy prices a few years back, prices dropped more than 50% in NZ partly due to a 10% increase in production in European dairy. Imagine the consequences of a doubling or tripling of world wheat supply. Goodbye NZ arable, dairy and meat industries.

    There will remain a market for GE food from wealthy consumers. When the dairy price dropped below $4/kg/MS a few years back I was working with an organic dairy farmer who was achieving over $12/kg/MS. I am convinced this was due to GE paranoia in the overseas market.

    We need to be extremely careful what we wish for with GE. GE free is a marketing issue, not a science issue.

  9. We are either a GE free nation , or not. In fact we are a GE free nation and yes selling and exporting GE free food gives us a huge advantage on the world marketplace.