The SPCA's open support for exploring the use of GE technology with respect to pest control should be welcomed, writes Federated Farmers biodiversity spokesperson Chris Allen.

Hidden in the SPCA's ill-informed call to ban 1080 was a gem that should not be ignored.

In expressing concern about aspects of 1080 that apply to all poisons the SPCA suggested that we should look for alternatives.

How right they were in that particular regard.


The wide consensus is that if we could find a better alternative to 1080 we should use it – the trouble is nothing that is anything like as effective is currently available.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

Added to that the current government and a number of district and regional councils want to close the door on looking for, let alone using, the most likely alternative – biological control using genetic engineering.

In her comprehensive report of 2011 the former Parliamentary Commission for the Environment Dr Jan Wright stated "…it is my view based on careful analysis of the evidence that not only should the use of 1080 continue (including in aerial operations) to protect our forests, but that we should use more of it".

The SPCA's open support for exploring the use of GE technology with respect to pest control should be welcomed.

The current Ministerial ban on research into alternatives to 1080 that involve genetic engineering and the undemocratic and fear-inspired banning of GE technologies by some regional and district councils is getting in the way of finding the solution the SPCA – and everyone else - seeks.

Federated Farmers doesn't always see eye to eye with Forest & Bird but on use of 1080, we are united in our message and our purpose.

We look forward to working with Forest and Bird to explore common ground with respect to the use of GE technologies to control pests.


Significant progress has been made with genetic modification technologies since the Royal Commission's report in 2001.

Much of the fear around GMOs at the time was with respect to transgenics; that involves the transfer of genetic material from one species into different host species.

We now have much more precise gene editing technologies emerging, such as the ability to change the DNA code within an individual species, for example to 'turn off' the sequence that enables reproduction.

There are GE-based technologies that could potentially eradicate the last possum, rat and stoat from New Zealand.

Arguably without the availability of GE technologies achieving our Predator Free 2050 goal will be impossible.

Yes, we need to have more robust public debate on this topic, but in the meantime we need to continue the research so that we have sound knowledge about the practicality, advantages and any potential downsides of a GE-based solution to eradicate these serious pests.