The Forestry Industry should focus on ethical and sustainable production, targeting the quality-end of the global market in a way that fits with New Zealand’s Brand image and which will secure international certification by the Forest Stewardship Council.
The recent Forestry Industry Summit concluded its performance in the last ten years has revealed an uncertain-future and a dismal past. It says it has “lost ground”, failed to keep pace with international expertise and lost the leading edge it commanded in the past.
Though some blame it on a lack of investment, it is also due to mis-direction of investment into GM trees rather than applications of research (including ethical uses of gene technology in full containment) that meet international standards for certification and quality-endorsements.
Investment in conventional tree breeding and management was diverted into GE technology and that can now be seen as a mistake. In the last ten years millions of dollars have been spent on GE tree research.
“The industry’s problems are not surprising as expertise and money that has kept New Zealand a strong player in the market place went into the unsuccessful development GE Trees,” says Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in food and environment.
“The excessive money being invested in the failing GE technology sector is not serving the industry. Independent studies constantly find GE poses a threat to natural ecosystems and health causing worldwide consumer rejection of any products that are sourced from it.”
In the 1980’s productive and vital New Zealand’s forest assets were sold to overseas companies and future profits went off-shore. Volatile world market prices and the isolated position of New Zealand from major markets has seen an amazing loss of our vital edge and a decline in the workforce.
The NZ Forestry Institute, later to become Scion, in conjunction with ArborGen and Genesis spent millions of dollars developing GE eucalypts, Pines (Pinus radiata) and Norway spruce (Picea abies).
The GE Eucalyptus trees have never been ERMA approved for a field trial, thousands of plantlets have been exported to Brazil and the USA. The pines and spruce were engineered to be resistance to herbicides. 17 Pine trees, engineered to contain altered reproductive genes, one line containing the “terminator” gene, were cut down in January 2008.
In May the 20 year Scion field trial was ended early- after just 5 years and accompanied by unsupported claims of huge success, but the issue of GE tree development has now been thrown right back to NZ foresters.
The Forestry Stewardship Council Certification requires that the forests have to be managed to meet the social, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations, including managerial aspects, environmental and social requirements and the prohibition of genetically engineered trees.
“If New Zealand is to recover its standing in the world business community, in ways that protect our clean, green image and are sustainable, it must look to innovative and natural ways to grow and develop trees and meet the quality-standards that allow international certification of New Zealand forestry products”.
“It is imperative that the Forestry Council put any development money into stable workforce and sustainable forests to rebuild its reputation. GE Trees are not a part of this scenario.