US-NZ 'pharma' crop tie-in urged / NZ risks squandering opportunity of the century (25/3/2004)


A recent editorial in Nature Biotechnology lambasted the greed and stupidity of the biotech industry's pursuit of pharma GM crops being grown in food crops like corn (maize), but that's not the view of Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who is being touted as a possible running mate for US Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. (item 2)

1.NZ risks squandering opportunity of the century
2.Iowa leader backs US - NZ 'pharma' crop tie-in

1.NZ risks squandering opportunity of the century
Thursday, 25 March 2004
Press Release: GE Free NZ

NZ risks squandering opportunity of the century. Western Australias Ban on GM crops a lesson for New Zealand  New Zealand should follow Western Australia’s decision to declare a GM-free zone in order to secure the marketing opportunity of the century.

Premier Geoff Gallop said the state would be declared a GM-free area in order to protect its "clean and green" reputation, Dow Jones News reported.

New Zealand is uniquely placed to gain maximum benefit from supplying guaranteed GM-free produce and a truly clean-green image for tourism and marketing.

"This opportunity is threatened by the government’s refusal to restore the moratorium on GE commercial release," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"We are being left behind while other states- like Western Australia- wake up to the disaster that GE crops have been overseas and take action to protect their national interests," he says.

New Zealand should be a GE-free zone with respect to commercial releases - and local Councils must demand this protection if central government continue to ignore their responsibilities.

"Local nuclear-free zones were the stepping stones to New Zealand declaring ourselves Nuclear free. Many regions – and even individual homes are now registering as GE-free Zones," says Mr. Carapiet.

"New Zealand must not squander the opportunity of the century by allowing GE contamination of our production systems, which is certain to result from commercial GE use."

2.Iowa leader backs US - NZ 'pharma' crop tie-in
By SIMON COLLINS science reporter
New Zealand Herald

A man who might be the next Vice-President of the United States would like to see New Zealand growing genetically modified "pharma-crops" in the American off-season.

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, one of a clutch of names being touted as a possible running mate for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, is in New Zealand leading a delegation of Iowa biotechnology businesses.

He said farmers in New Zealand, as in the Iowa corn belt, needed new high-value products to replace low-value agricultural commodities.

"As Brazil and South America and Africa and some of the other parts of the world get their agricultural act together, our farms are going to be at a serious disadvantage," he said.

"The only way we in the US and you in New Zealand are going to continue to have prosperity is to figure out something new to add value to the food we're producing.

"One way to do that is to have a value-added crop designed for a particular application, such as growing crops that are designed to convert to ethanol, or for medicines or nutriceuticals."

Two farmers in Mr Vilsack's 30-strong trade mission, brothers Joe and Bill Horan of the Iowa Co-operative, are already growing corn which has been genetically altered to produce an enzyme that helps cystic fibrosis patients to digest food.

Another company has manipulated corn to produce a protein that is normally expressed in human tears, and which can deal with the impact of dehydration and stop diarrhoea.

Mr Vilsack said the Iowa businesses wanted to understand New Zealand's regulations to see if it would be feasible to grow such crops here. "You could have a combination of New Zealand and Iowa and get a year-long growing season."

He accepted that farmers growing normal corn might be worried about contamination of their crops from nearby corn that had been engineered to produce medical proteins. He said one answer would be non-pollinating or self-pollinating crops.

Another Iowa company, Phytodyne, has developed techniques to "edit" the genetic structure of plants directly, without leaving traces of markers or other foreign DNA in the plants afterwards.

Mr Vilsack's mission is visiting New Zealand alone, and not Australia.

The trip was initiated by a Cedar Rapids business owner, Marcia Rogers, who lived in New Zealand for several years and saw parallels between the biologically based industries of this country and the US state of just under three million people.  

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