Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Clover It

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  • Ross Mason,

    WHAT???

    It is just a teaser with not a lot of substance

    It must be true. I read it in the paper!!!

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1588 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Like your work Bart and your point that NZ Inc has been hamstrung by the Greens because we can't do the research in GM that might lead to the break throughs that should make the 21st century really interesting

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 576 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Like your work Bart and your point that NZ Inc has been hamstrung by the Greens

    That makes me want to vote for the Greens, actually. I'd go to quite some length to hamstring "NZ Inc".

    Repeat after me: a country is not a corporation.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • RBentley,

    I don't know why my message has been repeated

    Hamilton • Since Jul 2008 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    I vote Green mostly for their social policy too...
    If there was a true liberal party with enough support without that stuff I would vote for them.

    Rumour has it that Sue Bradford may try and start just such a party. I would certainly vote for a party that stood on a real platform of social justice. I care far less about green credentials than I do about social justice credentials, and the Greens are sufficiently anti-science on a number of issues to put me off them. Sadly they're still the best counter to the "big two."

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Rumour has it that Sue Bradford may try and start just such a party

    A nice way to get back at the Greens - take enough votes off them to see them fall below the threshold.

    "Dear Rus and Matiera,

    Stick this in ya pipes and smoke it - www.seek.co.nz

    xxx

    Sue"

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I'm confused now. Does Sue Bradford want to found the Alliance?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Don
    I’m not sure if you are being facetious and I should lighten up but anyway…

    1 I agree it’s mostly fossil fuels but burps are significant. And who cares if reducing the impact of the burps helps then maybe we should try to do that.

    2 I don’t think we need an excuse. And yes we are constantly aware of longer term issues as well as short term. However, the implication it’s some subtle plot to get GM crops used in NZ is wrong – there is nothing subtle about it at all it’s quite open really. We scientists think it’s good for NZ and so we believe we should do it.

    3 Yup lots of research on the feed and on the cows themselves and on the bacteria in the gut and on the clover and grass they eat. And as far as I’m aware nobody has suggested stopping one line of research just because of success in this area. All the solution are being explored – which is good.

    4 Yup. China is rapidly becoming one of the biggest producers of GM crops and is going to be one of our biggest customers this century. There are some trade barriers in place in some parts of Europe to exclude American crops using the excuse that they are GM. As the European countries develop their own crops those barriers are disappearing. There is also a generation of consumers who were born after I started transforming plants and they generally don’t care at all. It’s hard for them to believe in the disaster scenarios when they are wearing jeans made from transgenic cotton plants (BTW most people are).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Any one of those concerns, if valid, makes the use of any GMO unacceptable.

    I think I see a flaw in your logic there.

    Farmers buying Monsanto seed are locked in forever, as you can't ever get 100% of last year's seed out of the next crop, so they own it all no matter your contract, and any fool can guess how the pricing works on that.

    I think the fact that Monsanto have been, and probably will continue to be, arseholes in several areas, doesn't necessarily make GE all bad. It might make Monsanto's GE seed satan's little pills, but that's all it means.

    Thanks to Bart for your posts on this topic. They've been interesting and informative.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Tussock
    I’m sorry but there is no easy way to say this. But your objections are based on misinformation.

    GM is still done in plants with the naturally occurring virus and bacteria, in a way that allows the wild versions to neatly pick that same gene back out in the field and distribute it to other species, right?

    No, not right. The virus bit you’ve heard about is a piece of DNA that is used to make the gene of interest be produced in the target plant. It is not a virus nor can it ever be a virus again. Yes the bacteria we use sometime to make transgenic plants naturally transfers it’s own DNA into plants, that’s how the system was discovered. But no it doesn’t go and pick up genes from the transformed plants and move them elsewhere. Sorry whoever told you that is really confused.

    That's how the roundup-ready gene spread to various weeds in the US and Australia.

    No that’s not true. As I said above that’s not how it works. There has been some spread of the roundup resistance gene from rape-seed to closely related brassicas. It has spread simply by pollen fertilising nearby weeds and the seeds carry the new gene. Yes that isn’t great. No it isn’t the disaster that has been portrayed. No we won’t do that again.

    So there is a difference, and quite a major one, eh.

    Nope there is no difference. The problem here is I think you imagine conventional breeding to be safe and without any risks at all right? But actually that isn’t true. There are numerous examples of conventional bred crops that were either environmental or health problems. The key thing here is that we accept that plant breeding has an element of chance and mistakes happen. As we get more knowledge the damage caused by those mistakes is less and less.
    What I am saying is that GM plants should be treated exactly the same as we treat conventionally bred plants. You don’t just make a new potato variety without checking to see if it isn’t poisonous (there have been such examples); you don’t import a new plant into NZ without making sure it doesn’t overrun our native forests (gorse).
    But you also don’t say we are never going to breed a new crop and we are never going import another plant into NZ. That would be an over-reaction and disproportionate to the actual risk and harm.

    There's a bit of land in the states

    Without a reference all I can say is I’m guessing you might be referring to a field trial site. Here’s the thing field trial sites are essentially lab experiment sites. Once we’ve done the work in the lab and done the work in the greenhouse, we have to do the work in the field. And to do that we use small plots of real land. And yes that’s where we learn sometimes that something unexpected and undesirable has happened and so we kill the plants and we usually sterilise the soil as well.
    So yes there are dead bits of land that we’ve used for field trials. That is exactly as we would expect.

    One might suggest the insecticides incorporated into various crops haven't been too friendly on the bees either

    But the bees are completely unaffected by the insecticidal agents in the transgenic plants we currently have. If you suggesting such a thing you would be scare mongering and I’m sure you don’t mean to do that and perhaps you should say that to the person who told you that story.

    There's farmers throughout Canada and the United States have had their land confiscated

    …because they stole from Monsanto. Sorry but that is what they did. And it has been shown in the case of the Canadian farmer that he went to considerable lengths to steal the seed.
    By the way in New Zealand we develop new fruit tree varieties which we are very proud of and which we sell to orchardists worldwide. 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.

    Farmers buying Monsanto seed are locked in forever

    No they are not they can choose any time to buy inferior seed but you know they don't because farmer growing transgenic crops (14 million of them) actually make more money by growing the transgenic crop. New Zealand makes millions of export dollars doing exactly the same thing. If you want to rail against Monsanto you better get out there and protest against some of our leading export earners as well.
    You can argue that capitalism is bad but that has nothing to do with whether GM crops are bad.

    you can't ever get 100% of last year's seed out of the next crop,

    The farmers don’t want to use last years seed. Last years seed doesn’t grow as well. Even if they aren’t using hybrid seed, fresh seed lots produced by the seed companies germinate better and produce a better crop. That’s why the farmers pay money for fresh seed. It has nothing to do with GM.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    That makes me want to vote for the Greens, actually. I'd go to quite some length to hamstring "NZ Inc".

    Repeat after me: a country is not a corporation.

    I think this is why the clover is so interesting. There are many issues involved here about what kind of New Zealand we want, and GE is being used as a stalking-horse for quite a few of those by opponents.

    Which is why disentangling them is so important. Mixed messages might be easy to use, but they're also easier to criticise and rebut - all you need to do is find the weakest part.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • uroskin,

    It’s hard for them to believe in the disaster scenarios when they are wearing jeans made from transgenic cotton plants (BTW most people are).

    Is that why new jeans these days are really not very sturdy and much more ill-fitting than they used to, or is it just that my butt looks big in them now?

    Waiheke Island • Since Feb 2007 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Jo S,

    As someone else with a background in genetics I thought about sticking my spade in too, but Bart is dealing with this far more eloquently than I could :)

    However, I would like to comment to those worried about our scientists focussing on science with commerical benefits -
    Perhaps this might have something to do with the fact that the majority of funding for science in NZ is only available to proposals that can demonstrate a likelihood of providing a profit in the not too distant future?

    is it autumn yet? • Since May 2007 • 80 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Seems to me there's a pretty simple middle-way solution to avoiding the whole green/GM issue - you know what gene you want in the white clover - and where it's going to come from - put a whole lot of both species in a box and have them breed like crazy - use your modern GE-fu to look at the results, you'll get some hybrids with the right genes you want - pick a nice one, put the white clover in a box with those guys - grab something appropriate, lather rinse repeat.

    Now we all know that in the long run there's no real difference between breeding like that and snipping the gene out in a lab and shifting it over - but it's, umm, "natural" - natural breeding usually takes a really long time, you can use all those cool new tools to speed it up.

    (count me in to the list of people who usually vote Green but can't really embrace them because of the irrational anti-GE thing - I'm all for holding the people who are doing it to a really high standard before stuff is released - but, there are people starving in the world)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Is that why new jeans these days are really not very sturdy and much more ill-fitting than they used to

    More likely, I would imagine, that the cotton is being spun to be thinner, allowing more material from a given weight of cotton. It's a fairly normal business technique. There's also a reduction in the number of different cuts, which reduces your choice of sizes/fits.
    Plus, now you can buy cheap jeans at the Warehouse. Go back 10 years and you really didn't have that choice. Jeans were generally pricey, with the associated quality. You can still get very sturdy jeans from Levis or Lee or the other usual suspects, but they're considerably more expensive than nearly-as-good jeans from TBRS or other low-price retailers.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    put a whole lot of both species in a box and have them breed like crazy - use your modern GE-fu to look at the results, you'll get some hybrids with the right genes you want - pick a nice one, put the white clover in a box with those guys - grab something appropriate, lather rinse repeat.

    As I understand from the work of the International Rice Research Institute, this takes a long time, reaching into decades. And even then you've still got to deal with the traits from the target plant that you don't want, which causes further delays.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    you don’t import a new plant into NZ without making sure it doesn’t overrun our native forests (gorse).

    And in the dog kingdom. Pit bulls. The bastard who signed those in should be shot.

    What risk assessment?

    PS @Bart, Keep it up, you are doing well.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1588 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    you don’t import a new plant into NZ without making sure it doesn’t overrun our native forests (gorse).

    PS @Bart, Keep it up, you are doing well.

    Yes, you are doing a great and eloquent job Bart, and I'm learning from it.
    Still, I'm a bit sceptical. RBentley makes some good points.
    (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 :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    (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 :)

    Sadly once native forests are cleared to grassland, which is what we put considerable effort into doing over the past couple of centuries...

    If only native forests spread as fast as gorse however.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    As I understand from the work of the International Rice Research Institute, this takes a long time, reaching into decades. And even then you've still got to deal with the traits from the target plant that you don't want, which causes further delays.

    But now we have all these cool new tools - we can sequence the intermediate genomes, see which ones pick up which genes and only choose the ones you want to direct the next round of hybridisation - I'm thinking years rather than decades - which is how long a true-GE crop might take to be approved

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    RBentley makes some good points.

    Yeah I know he does. I kind of didn't want to go there because it brings out my deeply cynical side.

    I short (s)he is right. There are other things that reduce methane production and AgResearch scientists actually are working on mundane stuff that leads to boring advice for farmers. None of which makes for a splashy press release.

    And yes the press release was "timed" and yes this press release about this science could have come any time in the last couple of years or a few years in the future without changing anything about the actual results presented.

    BUT

    For all the caveats I was very very happy to see a real science story leading the news. The reporting was as good as you could ever hope for given the time restraints. And damnit those folks at AG have done some really nice work that really is worth being proud of, simply because they are good scientists working in New Zealand on a problem that will have application worldwide.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    FWIW gorse doesn't over-run forests

    Gah that's my ignorance showing, 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.

    the majority of funding for science in NZ is only available to proposals that can demonstrate a likelihood of providing a profit

    Jo is dead right here guys.

    What she doesn't say is that the "likelyhood of providing profit" is judged by business/sector input and generally doesn't favour quality of science. In short your tax dollars are going into science which is given the big tick by businessmen not by scientists.

    I totally get that science for profit is unnerving. 99% of the scientists hate it as well. And in my opinion science for profit produces less economic benefit in the long term and in the short term reduces the amount of actual funding that gets into science.

    If the Greens want my vote (and every other scientist's vote in NZ) they should look at a research funding model that ignores profit/benefit to NZ/outcomes/milestones etc and instead simply demands excellent science.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Hell yeah. I spent a fair whack of time two years ago talking to a range of scientists (and businesspeople) about science and entrepreneurship in NZ.
    It was bloody depressing.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    I totally get that science for profit is unnerving.

    At least we are not America.

    "Great science! Can we weaponise it?"

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    In fact native forests over-run gorse :)

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

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

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