Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Clover It

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  • 3410,

    Gah that's my ignorance showing

    Welcome to the club. :)

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Suzette Jackson,

    Greenpeace’s policy on genetic engineering (GE) has not changed. Greenpeace is opposed to any release of GE crops or food into our environment or food chain. We are not opposed to GE if it is kept in the lab in a contained and ethical manner.

    When we were interviewed on this story it was unclear which method AgResearch would be using to increase the tannins within the clover.

    As we stated at the time, if they intend to use genetic engineering we opposed it. It seems they are looking at a method of GE which is called ‘Cisgenesis.’ This is where the plant’s genes are re-engineered to create a new ‘species.’ This is still genetic engineering, and is a process that is still liable to produce unexpected and unpredictable results, regardless of the fact that no genes been forced from one species into another.

    Greenpeace does however advocate for smart breeding methods such as marker assisted selection (MAS). This method does not involve the cross-species transfer of isolated gene sequences, but can be used to pick and choose desirable and existing plant material for further breeding. MAS has already proven to be a valuable tool for plant breeders: it requires less investment, raises fewer safety concerns and respects species barriers.

    It may be possible for AgResearch to use MAS to develop clover with higher tannins. For more information on MAS, go to; http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/smart-breeding/

    AgResearch’s discovery is far from any practical application (at least 15 - 20 years). And if they continue down the GE path we, along with many other New Zealanders, would strongly oppose any release. As for any climate change benefits, we need to cut our emissions now – not 15 years down the track.

    There are solutions to the problem of New Zealand’s high agricultural emissions -solutions that are not only better for the climate and the environment, but also good for farmers’ bottom lines. Smart farming (or biological farming) is about reverting back to more traditional farming practices. It's about less input, and better output. It's about cutting down on chemicals, cutting back on herd numbers and looking after the soil so that pastures thrive, and last. http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/smartfarming/the-good

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2010 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    We are not opposed to GE if it is kept in the lab in a contained and ethical manner.

    So, for all intents and purposes, you are opposed to GE. Because if it's not allowed out of the lab, it's worthless. You can't produce commercial quantities of any kind of plant matter if it must be kept in sealed labs.

    This is exactly the point that Bart has been making: something that cannot be used for any practical value of "used" may as well not be developed at all, and the rules around use that exist in NZ at present are the same as changing the definition of "use" to "kept in a test-tube or petri dish for all eternity."

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    I thought the problem was that it was a better pioneer than the natives and once established it didn't let the native second growth establish.

    Young gorse doesn't work so well but as it ages it lets enough light in to provide an ideal environment for nurturing natives. The seedlings eventually out grow the gorse which is adverse to being in shadow and dies. The technique is being successfully used on Banks Peninsula.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Suzette Jackson,

    There are better forms of science that are more advanced than genetic engineering as pointed out in our international report on marker assist breeding; For more information on MAS, go to; http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/smart-breeding/

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2010 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    (And FWIW gorse doesn't over-run forests. It's a relatively short-lived pioneer plant that needs lots of light. In fact native forests over-run gorse :)

    I'll vouch. I have watched a couple of paddocks of gorse over a fifteen year period turn back into native forest, mostly started with Tee tree, which gorse can't compete with. It is now a young and vibrant native bush , and the gorse is gone.Now my friend who was once considered lazy for not removing his gorse, is noted for having such a lovely garden. :)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    "Great science! Can we weaponise it?"

    AgResearch presents Agent Kakariki - explosive reforestation in seconds when airdropped on enemy dairy farms.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    "Great science! Can we weaponise it?"

    Cloverfield, the genie out of the bottle.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Greenpeace’s policy on genetic engineering (GE) has not changed.

    And you're proud of the fact that you're making the same claims that you were in the late 1990s and early 2000s?

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • RBentley,

    The Canadian farmer who took Monsanto to court and lost was an organic producer whose organic crop and reputation went down the gurgler because of pollen straying from nearby GE crops.

    There are also instances of traditional Mexican indian corn varieties grown in fairly isolated areas being contaminated by pollenation from GE crops many miles away.

    The Monsanto PR machine is very active and it easy to say that the rural Mexicans stole the seed, but it's just a story. You will find no proof one way or the other, just unequivocal statements from "foundations for research" that are funded by self-interested groups that are widely publicised and eventually become accepted because they seem authentic and authoritative.

    Hamilton • Since Jul 2008 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Revel Drummond,

    In reply to some of the comments about farmers being locked in to buying seeds from the likes of Monsanto

    One or the main reasons to buy in corn (or whatever) seed each year is hybrid vigour

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosis

    Basically the seed companies cross two elite but genetically different/diverse lines of corn and sell you the seeds. When you grow these seeds you get an excellent yield of seeds to sell (or keep)

    If you did keep these seeds and plant them the next year your yield would be significantly less because the heterosis effect has been partially lost, you lose more and more with each generation (inbreeding depression).

    You will note that this has nothing to do with GE.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2009 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • sagenz,

    Credit to you Russell. That is an excellent article posting a great moral conundrum.

    uk • Since Nov 2006 • 128 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    There are better forms of science that are more advanced than genetic engineering as pointed out in our international report on marker assist breeding;

    No, there aren't. There are *different* techniques which are also useful but do not do all the things genetic engineering does and are not a replacement. Targeted breeding is an excellent and useful technique but there are a bunch of things which are simply not possible in research-scale timelines without direct manipulation, especially in species with longer generation times. The fact that the four major advantages listed on that page boil down to "is not GE" tells you how much more "advanced" this is.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    Russell, our change in Agro-Culture has been aggressive in maximizing production, beyond any past levels of production.

    Sheep/Trees/Wheat to Dairy has been massive and so too the increase in all types of pollution.

    GE Clover is like a bandaid for a shotgun blast.

    The other costs are more important, lets address clean streams first and this issue will look after itself, once better agriculture choices are made.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    The other costs are more important, lets address clean streams first and this issue will look after itself, once better agriculture choices are made.

    Well...not really. We could reduce dairy down to a fraction of what it is and the world's methane production from cows would still be in need of reduction, unless you're suggesting we turn the whole world vegan.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    How do you get vegan out of sheep being less polluting than dairy?

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    Mikaere Curtis wrote:

    But the result is different. Traditionally breeding techniques are do not have the same level of precision with respect to which genes are included, ergo the set of genes that is transferred is different, and may require multiple generations to breed out the undesired genes, if this is possible at all.

    I don't have a problem with using GE to figure out which genes are of interest, and then using traditional methods used actually produce the hybrid.

    That's what I do not understand about the Green's policy. Using cross-breeding to mix hundreds of genes together in novels ways is okay. Using GE to insert a single gene in a precise place is not okay. Justified by saying that we do not know what the risks are. I believe that there are more risks in the former than that latter scenario, but in both cases there needs to be plenty of testing and trials done before the result is put into production.

    Unknown risks is not a justification for a blanket ban.

    [It is interesting the number of people - like myself - who have stated that they vote Green, or would like to vote Green, but who are against their GE policy. Perhaps the Greens could broaden their support base by relaxing this policy].

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Bart. I have been following your comments closely. Thanks for taking time to explain your perspective so patiently. My points were not against GM. Another poster, RBentley, explained my suspicions more clearly.

    I will pick up on this:

    If they then take cuttings from those trees and start planting out orchards from those cuttings then they are stealing from us and yes we prosecute them too.
    Just because someone didn’t use a crowbar to jimmy open a seed warehouse to steal the seed doesn’t make it less of a theft.

    Actually, it is absolutely not a theft. Using someone's ideas, through copying or replication is not theft. No-one starves as a result, no-one deprived of a 'good'. Quite the opposite in the case you raise. That's why Monsanto and their likes are pricks.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    The Canadian farmer who took Monsanto to court and lost was an organic producer whose organic crop and reputation went down the gurgler because of pollen straying from nearby GE crops.

    So here's the wiki entry and this is what I've heard about the story from folks who have very good contacts in the industry.

    Canola isn't a good crop in the sense that it tends to spread pollen and seed 10s of meters beyond the field. The farmer in question knew this and sprayed a strip of land next to a GM canola field with Roundup. As expected by everyone some of the plants next to the GM field were GM canola and resistant to Roundup. Note there was no plausible reason to spray roundup along that strip of land, he claimed he was spraying weeds - I personally find this hard to believe. He then went to the expense of harvesting those GM canola and storing them so that he could plant 4 square kilometers of GM canola!!!!!

    IMO this is not the action of a poor organic farmer struggling with a contamination. To portray this as a poor farmer versus big business story is disingenuous.

    Don I believe this is theft and so did the Canadian courts. If you want to argue that people should be able to take food when they want from people who have food then that is a different cultural model.

    There are also instances of traditional Mexican indian corn varieties grown in fairly isolated areas being contaminated by pollenation from GE crops many miles away.

    This one is definitely more of an issue. Mexico is the place where maize originated and hence has all the wild varieties of maize. It's a valuable resource for science and maize breeding. Because of that GM corn was meant to only be grown in specific areas of Mexico so that the wild varieties would retain their genetic distinctiveness.

    Some plots of those maize can now be shown to have genes from the commercial maize, including the transgenes. No-one really is sure how it happened. What it highlights is more a problem with separation of modern high yield crops from the wild varieties. It is not clear how long these ancestral strains have been being contaminated since it was only because of the GM issue that people looked.

    Note the actual farmers don't care at all because they kind of want to grow the high yield varieties and mostly aren't clear on why they should only grow the low yield ancestral strains even though they get extra money to do just that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    It's been really good to read you at length, Bart. I've long thought the dangers of GM were highly overestimated by the Greens, and that the obsession damaged their support a lot.

    I think the Nandor Tanczos link Russell gave says a lot. I read it to mean that he considered the opposition to GM to be something fundamental, that the very idea crossed a boundary of ethics, and the precautionary side of things was a rationalization for something that was "irrational but not spurious".

    I don't share that feeling. Like all tools invented by humanity, it's morally neutral. The morality comes in the use of it. So far, I haven't really heard of too many immoral uses proposed.

    If it were being used to make biological weapons, then I would certainly feel that to be immoral and potentially incredibly dangerous. But for the purposes of improving agricultural output, no, it's not immoral, it's the opposite, a great good. So I love your work, and I hope you are one day allowed to practice more freely in NZ for the benefit of farmers, consumers, our economy, and especially, for yourself.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    If they then take cuttings from those trees and start planting out orchards from those cuttings then they are stealing from us and yes we prosecute them too.
    Just because someone didn’t use a crowbar to jimmy open a seed warehouse to steal the seed doesn’t make it less of a theft.

    Actually, it is absolutely not a theft.

    Actually, it absolutely is. This isn't just a matter of linguistic semantics, unlike the copyright issue, but a matter of real law that deems it to be theft. The name of the case escapes me, but there is NZ law that says that unauthorised taking cuttings of crops and then growing them yourself is theft.

    [edit]
    And that case law dates back to way, way before GE became an issue. So don't go talking about how Monsanto are "pricks" for manipulating the law, because it was all about straight cross-breeding of fruit to come up with a new variant.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    This is-it-or-isn't theft thang is getting to sound like Brash's emails.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    the cursor the winking class...

    Usually I tell people that they can tell when I'm being facetious because my fingers are typing.

    "air" typing...
    "cloud" computing...
    ...heavens!
    where will it all end?
    ;- )


    Give peas a chance...

    Young gorse doesn't work so well but as it ages it lets enough light in to provide an ideal environment for nurturing natives. The seedlings eventually out grow the gorse which is averse to being in shadow and dies. The technique is being successfully used on Banks Peninsula.

    Gorses for courses!


    poor Pogo, it's a no-go au go-go...

    ...but only if that other noxious interloper, the brush-tailed possum, is kept in check.

    ... kept in check!?
    ... keeping it on the chess board
    would be hard enough...


    Gene Pool Satyrs...

    ...I believe that there are more risks in the former than that latter scenario, but in both cases there needs to be plenty of testing and trials done before the result is put into production.

    mix n match
    dice n slice
    where on Earth
    is the control?

    the untinkered
    the reboot
    and rebirth
    if things don't
    quite work out...

    ...always difficult on a
    draughty one room planet
    with wet wainscotting...
    we always share the place
    with consequences...

    is it already too late for Ark-NZ ?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Joe, ordinarily I would agree with Don that taking a copy of someone else's IP isn't theft (in the technical, legal sense). However, in the case of plants, it is because the law says it is. The law doesn't say that downloading music or movies is theft, no matter how often opponents of the practice may use the word, but it does say that plant cuttings are real property and can be stolen in the same way that a car or book can be stolen.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    However, in the case of plants, it is because the law says it is.

    It does. And the difference with other forms of IP theft ought to be obvious. Download my Cd, I can still make more music. Plant a hybrid I've invested a ton of money in, you can make as many as you want, and there's my investment gone.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

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