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Archive for the 'News' Category



23
Nov
11

Becoming New Fonterraland: GE, TPPA and BS


Holstein Freisian dairy cow – there’s 4.4 million of them in New Zealand. Image from Wikipedia. This is not a diatribe against cows, as previously stated I really do like the beasties.

So news is out that National seek to allow the introduction of genetically engineered organisms into New Zealand. You know New Zealand–that previous bastion of 100% Pure; that primary exporting country that has so, so much to loose from lax biosecurity, resource-depletion, dirty dairying, environmental degradation and/or GE-contamination? Are we still a nation or are we quickly becoming a corporation? Should we be renaming ourselves New Fonterraland?

Government ministeries don’t do things with huge policy implications off their own backs. Especially during a period of public service restructure and redundancy. But Dr Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment, apparently had no idea that his Ministry was compiling a study into how much money can be made by changing genetic engineering laws. The reason anyone found out about it? MfE put out to tender the study that looks at promoting greater use of novel organisms  in the open environment.

“They are working against a brand strategy for ethical applications of new organisms in containment. They have forgotten gorse, and possums, and the refusal by the Insurance industry to cover GM organisms,” says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

So why is NZ’s GE-free status at risk? Well, lobbying from two major power players–Fonterra and the US-backed biotech industry.

Fonterra: Dairying with GE–dropping quality, going for quantity

Fonterra wants GE pastures. This year it dropped it’s support for organic dairy production by 50% at a time when organic markets continue to rise. Organic dairy exports from New Zealand grew 400% between 2005-2009. Organic product sales in the USA grew 7.7% compared with total food sales increase of less than 1% in 2010. So why drop support for a ever-growing value-driven niche? Because organic production has been identified as the main obstacle to introducing GE grasses and crops into NZ.

But in this report, GE lobbyists “fail to mention the significant GE contamination of non-GE farms, the loss of markets, the massive increase in herbicide use, the new resistant weeds and disease problems, higher seed and production costs, loss of biodiversity, or the human and animal health problems associated with genetic engineering (GE),” says Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

Fonterra are ready to overlook all of this hoping to see 20% higher production over the next couple of years. Fonterra apparently is only interested in returning higher profits to investors, shafting the rest of the country in the process. They’ve managed to do it with milk prices, now they’re stepping it up a notch.

Biotech businesses want more billions

The US biotech industry isn’t happy with it’s $50.7 billion a year revenue. It wants to weaken GE laws as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) allowing companies like Monsanto to sell it’s genetically modified organisms to a farming nation.

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement should have been the main political issue this election. Loss of sovereignty and backroom deals by National for the TPPA will complete the introduction of GE crops into NZ . To have Pharmac, tobacco regulation, intellectual property, pro-corporate regulatory biases, finance, foreign investment, mining, water rights and GE straight-jacketed by a mega-treaty done in secret (All documents except the final text will be kept secret for four years after the agreement comes into force), is an astounding affront to New Zealand as a nation.  And why is the government pursuing it? What does New Zealand hope to gain from this? Helping Fonterra gain access to the lucrative US market. Feel sick yet?

New Zealand: Value-driven?

Our point of difference as a nation, our brand, our selling point, how we can add-value to New Zealand products–is being sold out to open up room for the big boys of the industry to rape and pillage? Our world-renowned environment, our precious birds, our native flora, our health and welfare all put at risk by organisms that aren’t fully understood.  There is no going back. Once they are here they are here

Threats of future enviro-degradation, monopolisation and health concerns from novel organisms don’t seem to scare most people.The incredible lack of knowledge and apathy on these issues is because people live more in the day to day, the future can be worried about in the future, we’ve still got to get through today. But New Zealand consumers are going to have to very quickly face up to decisions about eating GE. Feeding GE grass to cows that we then eat and get dairy products from (and NZers eat a lot of beef and dairy), is a very close relationship with novel GE organisms. Do we trust our scientists and the corporations that fund them enough to bypass all evolutionary safeguards, test all possible permutations and be concerned enough about the consequences to let those organisms loose into our environment and our bodies?

And no we don’t know the full ramifications of GE in our food supply–it simply hasn’t been around long enough. We’re only just finding out that plants you eat can affect the regulation of some of your genes through the effects of plant-derived miRNAs.

Vote this Saturday

It seems almost certain that National will returned to power this election. But please consider voting for the Greens–the only party willing to stand up on this issue. With clear environmental, child poverty and economic policies, the Green Party are important players in New Zealand politics. Hopefully a strong Green presence in parliament will mean that these issues are addressed and don’t turn into policy pushed through under urgency.

References

‘Super-grass’ aims to boost milk production (02 Mar 2010)

BioTechnology Learning Hub: Amazing Ryegrass

GM grass may not be so green (18 Jun 2011)

Something smells bad (15 Jun 2011)

Warning on GM laws from the NZ Sustainability Council (10 Nov 2011)

GE law probe a big surprise (20 Nov 2011)

GE Free New Zealand in Food and Environment

Soil & Health / Organic NZ

Trans Pacific Partnership Watch

New Zealand Green Party

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10
Nov
11

Early adopter or invasive species?

Much like kudzu, LovePlantLife is everywhere, climbing all over the internet, invading your social media space.

A day after Google+ launched it’s +Pages, LPLL was up there staking it’s claim in the latest ‘social’ real estate. Quick, aye? Finger on the pulse. Actually it was completely accidental, but thanks Paul Callaghan for keeping me in touch with the world.

Due to too little time and a magpie tendency with plant info, I’ll be sending out little dispatches from my Google+ and Twitter. All being fortuitous, I shall do a wee wrap up of the goodies here each week.

Image credit: Emiliana at sxc.hu

02
Nov
11

Biosecurity and the RWC: How much will that cup really cost us?

What happens when you drop the border protection standards for a primary exporting country, just so rugby fans can get into the country quicker? ? ? ?

Industry group Horticulture New Zealand is right to be concerned by a drop in NZ’s border control for the Rugby World Cup. They claim more than 270,000 passengers have walked straight through our international airports without having bags x-rayed.

“If we are simply doing this to save 15 minutes for rugby fans, then I really hope they’ve got this right. Because the risk is enormous – $800 million alone, just in the Bay of Plenty, not to mention upwards of 5000 jobs lost. All it takes is one Queensland Fruit Fly, found in one monitoring trap, on one orchard. International markets will close to us, for at least a year, if not longer,” said HortNZ president Andrew Fenton.

Just when you thought that $1.2billion was more than enough for New Zealand to spend on the Rugby World Cup.

Tiny insects couldn’t really cause that much damage, right?

This comes on the back of a new report from industry group Potatoes NZ. The nation’s chip supply, is at the mercy of a tiny potato/tomato psyllid Bactericera cockerelli. The pest has cost the potato industry over $100million in the last 3 seasons alone. One of the resulting diseases of infestation is liberibacter that causes zebra chips. I prefer ghost chips myself.

22
Oct
11

Hard Labour Weekend Approaches

Prepare yourselves people! Hard Labour weekend is here. So named because traditionally it’s the time to work your butt off in the garden getting those vegetable beds full of deliciousness so you can kick back and relax with fresh homegrown produce this summer.

This year’s attempts at horticultural excellence at LPL homebase may be stiffled by the sniffles of the two adult household members. Babybel is so far immune. (Yes, I think referring to my child after a block of cheese is appropriate-she’s delicious, round and can be quite smelly.) So this is our to do list. What do you have planned?

Chickweed – It’s been keeping a nice groundcover between the veges, but it’s starting to get a bit tall and potentially trap water around vulnerable stems causing rot. It’s going to have to go. Likely to end up as pesto.

Tomatoes – The traditional time to get your tomatoes in. There is a huge range of tomatoes now available in NZ. Make the most of them. But due to the horrible effects of the psyllids due try to plant some phacelia to attract predatory insects.

Seeds – I’ll be making seed-raising mix and sowing capsicum, chillis, beans, beetroot, corn, amaranth, marigolds, zinnias, sunflowers, basil, parsley, more lettuce, and tending my yams.

Digging over the bed the corn will go into – I like to plant seeds at the same time I prepare the beds. Double digging and adding compost now means the gardens will be in prime condition-the compost spread through and not creating hotspots, the worms having a party-in time for my seedlings to go in in 4-6 weeks. Corn does best direct sown but I’m a bit late in prepping that bed.

Feeding – The strawberries are looking bountiful and just about to set fruit so now is a good time to give them a bit of a feed. And I’ll be using seaweed throughout the garden.

Comfrey – Time to make another batch of comfrey tea and dig up and distribute some of the roots. I’d like to put some more around our fruit trees.

Flax – I’ll be pulling out the flax stalks and turning them into something useful… You’ll have to check back next week to see just what.

General tidying up and preparing for a fantastic summer.

And of course the all important…

Even I will punctuate the weekend and lift the Rugby Exclusion Zone in my house to watch Sunday night’s All Blacks vs France. My snubbing of the Rugby World Cup thus far has little to do with the sport and more a reflection on the socio-economic consequences of the alcohol-fuelled, machissimic, and overly expensive requirements of throwing a ‘bash’ for the totalitarian IRB.  But I’m down with popular culture and feel that I should watch, helped greatly that we have some damned fine looking All Blacks. Something to do on a Sunday night anyway.

Enjoy your weekend everybody.

31
Aug
11

Kapiti bits, bobs, biodynamics and backyards

Spring is clearly in the air and the Kapiti Coast is starting to buzz with garden activity. The Seedy Sunday website has info on some of the excitement.

— Te Ra is hosting a series of workshops with world-renowned biodynamics experts Peter Proctor and Rachel Pomeroy. First one is Thursday so you better be quick!

— The Edible Backyard Spring Festival is Saturday 8 October – held in Kath Irvine’s oh-so-inspiring permaculture garden.

— And we’ve set up an email discussion group for Kapiti gardeners to share tips, techniques, seeds and stories.

www.seedysundaynz.blogspot.com/

Happy gardening!

Image Credit Flickr User Code Poet

31
Aug
11

Edible Backyard Spring Festival – 8 October

Edible Garden Spring Festival october 8, 2011

16
Aug
11

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Yesterday it snowed at my house. I live near the beach, in a place it never snows. I can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve been in falling snow. I put the little one to bed, rugged up and ran around outside like a 5 year old. Alas, it didn’t settle so no snowmen for me.

But I did get to have a snowball fight on Sunday night at a friend’s in Brooklyn. There were blankets of it. I had been conveniently sheltering at the Chocolate Festival at the Intercontinental as it fell. When fuelled by tasty, tasty chocolate, that much snow was a total delight.

Will be interesting to see how this cold blast will affect the garden. The one year I give up and don’t plant Brussels sprouts because it doesn’t get cold enough in Kapiti is the one year it decides to snow at sea level! I must have offended the brassica gods.

More interesting point is what will it do to insect populations round these parts? Ants, whitefly, aphids, shield bugs – how will they all fare in the icy conditions? Might have been a good enough zap to get a few of the suckers away from my spring sprouts.

Watch a great little clip of aerial shots of Wellington’s snow.




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