AgResearch scientists have developed a genetically modified (GM) ryegrass that has a 40 per cent increase in production and a 30 per cent reduction in water demand.
Animals can eat less for the same live weight gain; it contains a high metabolisable energy (HME) system giving it a 20 per cent increase in photosynthesis and in-vitro rumen investigations have measured a 15-23 per cent decrease in methane production.
AgResearch Grasslands principal plant biotechnology scientist Greg Bryan said the HME could transform farming by reducing its environmental footprint and improving animal productivity.
“The potential value of GDP based on modelling we have done is in the range of $2 billion to $5 billion in additional revenue depending on the adoption rate by farmers,” Bryan says.
It sounds too good to be true.
Unfortunately, it won’t be happening anytime soon because New Zealand has rules so stringent that no one can plant a single GM seed in an open paddock. Neither can scientists test new seeds developed using offshore GM technology. To gain approval for field trials, no reproductive material must leave the site, preventing plant breeding studies. HME field trials are being done on soya beans in the United States.
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