Greenpeace’s policy on genetic engineering (GE) has not changed. Greenpeace is opposed to any release of GE crops or food into our environment or food chain. We are not opposed to GE if it is kept in the lab in a contained and ethical manner.
When we were interviewed on this story it was unclear which method AgResearch would be using to increase the tannins within the clover.
As we stated at the time, if they intend to use genetic engineering we opposed it. It seems they are looking at a method of GE which is called ‘Cisgenesis.’ This is where the plant’s genes are re-engineered to create a new ‘species.’ This is still genetic engineering, and is a process that is still liable to produce unexpected and unpredictable results, regardless of the fact that no genes been forced from one species into another.
Greenpeace does however advocate for smart breeding methods such as marker assisted selection (MAS). This method does not involve the cross-species transfer of isolated gene sequences, but can be used to pick and choose desirable and existing plant material for further breeding. MAS has already proven to be a valuable tool for plant breeders: it requires less investment, raises fewer safety concerns and respects species barriers.
It may be possible for AgResearch to use MAS to develop clover with higher tannins. For more information on MAS, go to; http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/smart-breeding/
AgResearch’s discovery is far from any practical application (at least 15 - 20 years). And if they continue down the GE path we, along with many other New Zealanders, would strongly oppose any release. As for any climate change benefits, we need to cut our emissions now – not 15 years down the track.
There are solutions to the problem of New Zealand’s high agricultural emissions -solutions that are not only better for the climate and the environment, but also good for farmers’ bottom lines. Smart farming (or biological farming) is about reverting back to more traditional farming practices. It's about less input, and better output. It's about cutting down on chemicals, cutting back on herd numbers and looking after the soil so that pastures thrive, and last. http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/smartfarming/the-good