The National Party’s policy to remove the ban on gene technology is a crucial element in its plans to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
Announcing the policy today, its agriculture spokesperson, Todd McClay, said removing the gene technology ban would give farmers tools they need to reduce methane emissions, such as gene-edited crops, feed and livestock.
Its genetic modification policy was announced on Sunday and includes establishing a dedicated biotechnology regulator within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to oversee it and to manage ethical concerns.
The party is committed to a split approach to reducing agricultural greenhouse gases and reaching Net Zero by 2050, but McClay said the route to achieve that is through technology, not lower production.
The policy also includes recognising on-farm sequestration, pricing on farm emissions by 2030 at the latest but keeping the sector out of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
If it gets into power it will establish an independent board but with a power of veto retained by the ministers of Climate Change and Agriculture, to implement the pricing system.
The policy also includes rules limiting the conversion of productive farmland to exotic forestry with a moratorium on whole-farm conversions on high quality land from 2024.
“NZ farmers are among the most carbon efficient in the world,” McClay said.
“However, currently there is no technology widely available in NZ to reduce methane emissions.
“That means any environmental costs lumped on farmers will push up food prices or send production overseas to higher emitting countries.”
Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) welcomed the policy, saying it aligns with its own position.
“For the last few months, we have been advocating for the focus to be on establishing a robust and credible measurement and reporting system for agricultural emissions that works for farmers, with a price introduced only if justified once sequestration has been sorted and there are viable mitigations that are widely available for use,” chair Kate Acland said.
She said farmers are unhappy with the pricing proposal the He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership put to the government last year as it disproportionately affects the viability of extensive sheep and beef farmers.
“BLNZ also supports a review of the methane targets based on the latest science and the warming impact of methane on the planet,” she said.
She was encouraged by the policy to restrict the rate of wholesale conversion of farms into forestry for entry into the ETS.
She said the unbridled conversion of whole farms into carbon farms needs to stop in the short term while work is done to amend the ETS.