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Wellington, New Zealand

GE-Free New Zealand

in food and environment (RAGE Inc.)


Viability Questioned After GE Ryegrass Application Withdrawn


annual ryegrass 1024x600The withdrawal of the application to grow GE ryegrass in Australia has added to doubts about the viability of AgResearch's GE-ryegrass which has already done poorly in previous trials.

Withdrawal of an application often indicates regulators have given a quiet word that the application is about to be rejected. Results released under the Official Information Act have shown the GE ryegrass will change the composition of milk sold to consumers and has been less effective in reducing methane emissions than existing alternatives.

In 2018, AgResearch received $25 million funding from Government and associated organisations to conduct a five-year field trial on its genetically engineered (GE) ryegrass in Missouri, home of Monsanto/Bayer. The GE Rye grass field trial was to gauge performance of increased metabolised energy (HME) ending with a study on the effects when fed to cattle. The GE rye grass failed to produce enough dry matter to conduct the trial. These field trials ended in 2022 with poor yields and performance with no end results.

The GE Rye grass had genes from sesame seed and nasturtium and contained para influenza and E. coli vectors. [1] It was hypothesised to reduce methane, and increase yields, but these end points were never met.

In 2022, AgResearch and partner Grasslanz Technology Australia Pty Limited applied to the Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. The application has now been withdrawn. [2][3]

Submitters, like Gene Ethics, commented on the outcome, highlighting the impact of pollen spread from the GE ryegrass. Australian farmers consider ryegrass as an invasive plant that is affecting crops. Australian ryegrass is already as pest and resistant to a range of herbicides, and contamination from GE ryegrass would add to problems for farmers including the potential for health issues from inserted genes causing allergies in both animals and humans.[4]

“Claims made to be addressing climate change need to question when the results fail to improve on existing solutions. Federated Farmers are promoting a failed experiment whose benefits are an expensive illusion," said Jon Carapiet, spokesperson for GE-Free NZ.

"It is appalling that Federated Farmers are also trying to undermine regulation in their push for commercialisation of GE ryegrass as a monoculture while ignoring alternatives of diverse mixed forage that is shown to be effective in reducing methane."

It is time for New Zealand farmers' concerns to be supported with funding to transition to proven organic solutions for long-term sustainability and resilience to climatic upheavals.

[1] https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/biotechnology/regulatory-processes/permits/status-update/release-permits
[2] DIR 194 - Summary of the Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (consultation version) (ogtr.gov.au)
[3] https://www.farmersweekly.co.nz/news/agresearch-seeks-to-trial-gm-grass-in-aus/failed
[4] https://invasives.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/ISC-GM-ryegrass-submission-16-Jan-2023.pdf

Jon Carapiet: 021 0507681