Extinction Rebellion should unglue their hands and reach out for the potential of gene editing technologies

History was being made (we  were  told  by  mainstream media)  when  170,000  New Zealanders  took to  the streets to  demand  decisive  action  against  climate  change.  It capped a  week in which the  16-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg dressed down a  summit in New York of world leaders:

We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth”.

That  apocalyptic   vision  was  clearly  shared  by  many young  New Zealanders: one Wellington student called on the government immediately to  cull the   country’s entire  dairy herd.

So   what   has   happened in the  fortnight  since?

Nothing  very much.  

Which  is  probably  a relief  at  least to  those  who  understand  the dairy  industry is  one of the  pillars of  economy, without which   national  living standards  would  fall drastically (and  young  New  Zealanders  would be faced with  walking to  school or university).

Now there  have been  fresh  protests on climate change  by groups  labelling themselves  Extinction  Rebellion,  who  adopt  the  technique of  glueing their hands  to the  pavement.   Good luck  with that, we  say.

Strange as it may  seem  to  the protestors, there  are  many among   older  New  Zealanders   who believe  the  Ardern  government,  with its Green  Party  allies,  have been  dragging the chain when it  comes to  action on  climate  change.

They  don’t believe   the  government has  focused as hard as it should  on  issues    where  science   could make a  real  difference  in  the   battle  to  preserve  the world  as  we  know  it from  the impact  of   global   warming.

For  example,  why  isn’t the  government   removing  the  restrictions on genetic engineering  which  has    huge potential   to  reduce  methane  emissions?

The new  technology of  gene editing  has emerged  as a  real  option in tackling some of the  world’s biggest  challenges in  food  production, conservation, and climate  change,  as well as in  medicine.  Even though genetic modification  technologies and products are  safe, they  continue to be shrouded  in controversy in NZ,  though  they are  being applied  in  agriculture –  for example in  the  US.

AgResearch  has succeeded  in gaining  approval  to develop  and maintain genome-edited  cattle  and  has launched a  $10m study  with the aim of  developing  dairy animals producing  fewer  emissions  and better  milk output.

They  are doing so  within  NZ’s  only EPA-approved large  animal outdoor  containment  unit.   Approved  for  200 cattle, the double-fenced, 46ha unit includes animal handling, milking and surgical facilities, along with portable   weather  stations required for the tests.

AgResearch has  developed  methods to  zero  in on genetic gains, as far back as the early embryo stage, which  are starting to be  used in large-scale  commercial  breeding.

In  a  five-year  programme the researchers plan to  expand this  concept into a  new platform  which will combine gene editing with  strategies to multiply rapidly chosen  embryos.

It’s  this  kind of   science   which  the government  should be  driving hard. At present  Plant & Food Research  breeds  only 100% GM-free fruit, vegetable and  grains.  While it has  never  developed  GM foods for commercial  use, its scientists  routinely use gene technology to  expand its  knowledge.

They  have  learned  that gene editing can help   in achieving  breeding  targets  around nutrition and sustainability  much  faster.  That means consumers get  more healthy  foods sooner.

Other  Crown  Research  Institutes   have  identified  similar  options,  for  example,  in growing trees or fighting pests.

Scientists   don’t  want  a  re-run of  the  GM  debate  which  produced  the restrictions  currently  applied in  NZ.  The technology  now available  is very different  and  according to   David Hughes, chief  executive of   Plant and  Food Research,  gene  editing offers   game-changing capability well beyond  earlier  GM  tools.  He  says  those  changes  are the same  as  found in nature.

You  can’t ‘test’ for gene editing because  it leaves no trace”.

 Hughes  says   his  institute  sees great promise for  gene editing  in helping NZers  to sustain   their prosperity,  communities and  environment.

It is  not just  in agricultural  science  where  gene  editing  can be  transformatory.  In  medicine, immune  cells  can be told  to follow  doctors’ orders  and  stem cells better coaxed into  new tissues.

The  Healthier Lives  Science  Challenge,  funded  by the  government and under   the direction of  Professor  Jim  Mann of Otago University  has already  developed a  simple, cost effective  DNA-based (or genomic) diagnostic test for cancer progression  which could be used in many locations  around the country.  It  could  particularly  benefit  people living  in isolated  rural areas   who currently  have to  travel to larger centres  for tests.

Here  are  programmes   where  the government, if it  really  believed in  its rhetoric   of  transformation,   could  be driving hard  the changes  the country  needs.

4 thoughts on “Extinction Rebellion should unglue their hands and reach out for the potential of gene editing technologies

  1. In a similar vein – if carbon derived electric power really was a problem then the weight of money would be going into trying to develop nuclear power as a safe base load power source. Unfortunately nuclear energy has offended Gaia as well. The extinction rebellion is run by privileged Trotskyites who are channeling all manner of biblical references – probably unwitingly – we will be flooded (the Ark); stop eating meat if you want salvation from carbon induced catastrophe and so on. Many protesters have limited self awareness as they look and sound ridiculous.

    The conflation of pollution with anthropogenic global warming is their greatest mistake – one is bad and the other is an illusion but proof positive of Lenin’s useful idiots let out at playtime.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The purpose of man-made global warming hysteria has nothing to do with science and everything to do with forcing a Marxist political order on New Zealanders and other Western countries, as Extinction Rebellion have made clear in their core documents where they address the collapse of the Western democracies. So modern nuclear reactors and gene-editing, however efficacious in addressing carbon and methane emissions they might be, don’t really fit the agenda here. Once you understand this everything, including the coalition’s continued rejection of these technologies, makes sense.


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