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.

Genetic modification, carbon emissions and the Greens

An interesting discussion at The Standard yesterday on genetic modification in New Zealand, in general and how this relates to the Green party anti-GE stance.

Andre kicked it off with:

Genetic modification to dramatically improve photosynthetic efficiency. It could help us deal with the challenges of a world on its way to 10 billion humans. If only the rabids can get over their blind kneejerk opposition to genetic modification *because Monsanto*.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/01/re-engineering-photosynthesis-gives-plants-a-40-growth-boost/

Greens are faced with a dilemma if GE can provide a viable means of reducing carbon emissions.

“Your argument that selective breeding is comparative to GE is, to speak plainly, plainly bullshit.”

They’re different tools for doing the same job, with GE being a faster and more precise tool. Someone who chooses to protect in a plant a natural mutation that’s useful to the person but would be evolutionarily disadvantageous to the plant isn’t taking a “holistic” or “natural” approach any more than a genetic engineer does. They’re both just using the tools they have to achieve a desired outcome.

Your statements about “breaking the planet” and biodiversity are claims about human population growth and industrial farming in general, not genetic engineering in particular. The entire planet could outlaw GE tomorrow and the problems you’re referring to would still exist, and could conceivably be worse. This is a common problem with the arguments of GE opponents, ie the arguments often do not support the conclusions claimed.

https://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-05-01-19/#comment-1568502

But there’s a lot more to the issue than this. There are a lot of arguments and discussions. I don’t have time at the moment to try to summarise. Discussions are in several threads:

https://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-05-01-19/#comment-1568075

https://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-05-01-19/#comment-1568107

https://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-05-01-19/#comment-1568076

Greens continue to oppose genetic modification

Recently the Washington Post wrote that 107 Nobel laureates sign letter blasting Greenpeace over GMOs but the New Zealand Green Party aren’t budging on their opposition to genetic modification.

Ex Green leader Russel Norman now heads Greenpeace in New Zealand but doesn’t appear to have responded, but his replacement as Green co-leader James Shaw said that they would not change their strong opposition to GMOs.

Washington Post:

More than 100 Nobel laureates have signed a letter urging Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The letter asks Greenpeace to cease its efforts to block introduction of a genetically engineered strain of rice that supporters say could reduce Vitamin-A deficiencies causing blindness and death in children in the developing world.

The letter signed by 107 Nobel laureates:


To the Leaders of Greenpeace, the United Nations and Governments around the world

The United Nations Food & Agriculture Program has noted that global production of food, feed and fiber will need approximately to double by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing global population. Organizations opposed to modern plant breeding, with Greenpeace at their lead, have repeatedly denied these facts and opposed biotechnological innovations in agriculture. They have misrepresented their risks, benefits, and impacts, and supported the criminal destruction of approved field trials and research projects.

We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against “GMOs” in general and Golden Rice in particular.

Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.

Greenpeace has spearheaded opposition to Golden Rice, which has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The World Health Organization estimates that 250 million people, suffer from VAD, including 40 percent of the children under five in the developing world. Based on UNICEF statistics, a total of one to two million preventable deaths occur annually as a result of VAD, because it compromises the immune system, putting babies and children at great risk. VAD itself is the leading cause of childhood blindness globally affecting 250,000 – 500,000 children each year. Half die within 12 months of losing their eyesight.

WE CALL UPON GREENPEACE to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general;

WE CALL UPON GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD to reject Greenpeace’s campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; and to do everything in their power to oppose Greenpeace’s actions and accelerate the access of farmers to all the tools of modern biology, especially seeds improved through biotechnology. Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.

How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”?

Sincerely,

Click here for a full list of signatories…

In New Zealand the Herald reports: Greenpeace urged to end GMO opposition

Some New Zealand scientists are backing an open letter by more than 100 Nobel laureates which urges environmental group Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically-modified food, in particular a new rice which has the potential to reduce disease in third-world countries.

Director of Genetics Otago Professor Peter Dearden said he agreed with the letter’s authors.

“It is time for us to stop believing that all GM is bad and to see that the benefits can far outweigh the risks,” he said.

“This is not to say we should have no regulation, but that such regulation should be evidence-based and not coloured by the view that GM is necessarily bad.

Professor Barry Scott, of Massey University’s Institute of Fundamental Sciences, said the endorsement of that report by more than 100 Nobel laureates added “considerable weight” to its evidence. It also challenged the “extreme” view of Greenpeace.

“The new technologies associated with gene and genome editing further challenges the irrationality of such an extreme view given changes can now be made to the genome that are similar to those made by non-GM methods such as radiation treatment.”

The Herald says that “Greenpeace New Zealand could not be reached for comment”.

I can’t find any reference to the Nobel Laureate letter on Greenpeace’s New Zealand Facebook page.

Greenpeace international: “Rather than invest in this overpriced public relations exercise, we need to address malnutrition through a more diverse diet, equitable access to food and eco-agriculture”.

But Barry Soper reports that Greens refuse to drop opposition to genetic modification

Green co-leader James Shaw said that’s not going to change anything here.

“There is a huge market out there for people who want safe, GE-free organic food, and it’s very, very hard for us to do that when you introduce that into New Zealand.”

Mr Shaw said this country should be proud it’s food is free of genetic modification.

“New Zealand has access to those markets that are willing to pay a really high price for high quality organic produce.

“A tonne of organic milk powder goes for about $14,000 – you compare that to regular milk powder, it’s going for about $2300 a tonne.”

Green principles? Green inflexibility?

How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”