Monday, 19 September 2016

About that Elephant / Where's my Money?

Ganesh, the Way-Clearing Man-Elephant
We get several "free" newspapers each week, as do all farmers in NZ. They're entirely sponsored by advertisers, with bits of farmer-friendly content around the ads to attract our eyeballs.

My impression is that for most of the year, these papers have carried a steady trickle opinions that appear to favour NZ farmers growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A classic of the genre is this piece (see p10, but note the front page promo) by Ian Proudfoot of KPMG. Ian reckons that we must stop ignoring the GMO elephant in the room, because people keep talking to him about it, though he has "no clear view on what the right course of action is".

Less than three years earlier, he was much more confident, arguing that NZ "should be creating a premium market around being GE-free and charging a premium for GE-free product". This raises a few questions about what's changed since November 2013 and, as an economist, my questions concern both sides of our agricultural markets.

  1. Has the demand for NZ's agricultural products become more accepting of GMOs?
  2. Has the potential supply cost of NZ's agricultural products been reduced by GMOs?

I've looked but found no evidence to support either of these propositions, so I'm still firmly in the camp of the November 2013 Ian Proudfoot: we should play to our GMO-free strengths.

But I agree with Ian that there is an elephant and that we should talk about it. That elephant is the millions of taxpayer dollars are still being poured into engineering GMOs for NZ farmers, even after many many years of failure by the scientists, not to mention that our customer don't want it (as 2013 Ian Proudfoot noted).

I've been asking William Rolleston about this on Twitter for some time without any response. He keeps arguing that case-by-case evaluation of GMOs is the way to go (a point I agree with) but ignoring the supply-side question about where are these great new GMOs in which we taxpayers are investing all this cash. Here's what happened over the weekend.

Today I received what could have been a response but was instead designed to exclude the above thread and funnily enough it again ignored that exact same elephant.

So, now I'm feeling like Caspa: Where's My Money?

1 comment:

  1. Millions? I think you may be low by a few orders of magnitude. The biggest investor in GE is government.