Turning our backs on promising tools for predator control is a massive disservice to New Zealand’s native flora and fauna, Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“The ‘mega mast’ in New Zealand’s forests this autumn presents a huge challenge to our pest control agencies and countless volunteers.

“The frequency of these exceptionally heavy tree seeding events is likely to increase with climate change, yet this coalition Government has called a halt on research on genetic engineering technologies.”

The Department of Conservation is planning its biggest ever 1080 and trapping response (a $38 million programme covering about 1 million hectares) to try and combat the plague of rats, stoats and possums that will turn on our native birds, bats, lizards, insects and trees when the seed feast runs out.

“Spreading 1080 is acknowledged by scientists and thinking New Zealanders as the best tool we currently have in our fight to protect our biodiversity, but it’s by no means perfect nor will it availability continue to be guaranteed,” Allen says.

Rapidly advancing genetic engineering techniques could well offer us much more effective pest control tools, as well as new ways of limiting greenhouse gases.  New Zealand needs to get on with the job of proving if the technology can do the job effectively, with no unintended consequences. We should be doing this research now to prove to New Zealanders there is another way to defeat pests and to foster well informed public debate on the safety and other aspects of GE, Chris says.

“Instead, this government seems to be letting ideology overrule science.  Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has not rescinded her instructions to Predator-free NZ to not be involved in any research to do with GE organisms and technologies such as CRISPR and gene editing.

“This is unhelpful, head-in-the-sand stuff.  I can’t see  NZ making a big leap toward meeting  predator free aspirations or meeting our climate obligations with this government’s approach.”