Are genetically modified products part of the solution to climate change?

According to a groundbreaking report by the Productivity Commission, a full regulatory review of genetically modified organisms and technologies is overdue in New Zealand, something which is also supported by the Climate Change Commission which recently made a similar recommendation.

It’s music to the ears of Zahra Champion, BiotechNZ’s Executive Director, who spoke to REX Today’s Dominic George about the need for New Zealand to finally accept genetically modified products in a world facing climate change and growing global food needs.

Champion told George, “most New Zealand shoppers know that we currently don't grow any genetically modified food in New Zealand and therefore we don't sell it in New Zealand. 

"However, we do actually have some GM-approved ingredients on our shelves, which is obviously coming from overseas. When most people are shopping, they're not checking for labels. They might be checking for nutritional value, but they won't be checking for these GM products".

Champion points to the recent arrival of the Impossible Burger, here in New Zealand, "the Impossible Burger has a GMO ingredient in it. But we just haven't seen consumers picketing or wanting this product taken off our shelves.

"I do see there's a real shift in that people want to make their own choices. They're making choices around what services and products they want to buy, which ones will fit in their life into the lifestyle, but also their beliefs.

"We're seeing a lot of our consumers driving the market around that they want ethical and sustainable products. So it's less about the technology. It's more about how that product is being created".

In 2020, statistics show that about 53% of New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions were attributable to primary industries, something with Champion stresses we need to address. 

"It’s no longer just about GMO versus non-GMO. We're talking about a range of biological tools that can aid our breeding programmes, right through to modern technologies like synthetic biology or creating the Impossible Burger".

Champion believes it’s about giving farmers these tools and solutions, particularly around making their stock more efficient. "Creating cows that emit less greenhouse gases, creating grasses that, that once cows eat, they again reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions".

Listen to the full interview above.

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