'NZ could be a powerhouse in animal genetics' - Govt under pressure to relax GM laws

The Government is coming under pressure to relax the rules on the use of genetic engineering, with Treasury and the Ministry for Environment saying the rules are costing the country millions.

They are urging the Government to review restrictions, saying New Zealand is missing out on agricultural and environmental gains.

"If we had some change in this area New Zealand could be a powerhouse in animal genetics that would help our economy tremendously," says Warren Parker, chief executive of the Crown-owned research facility Scion, which is approved for GM field trials.

It is looking at faster growing pine trees, but under current laws, any commercial release will be difficult.

"Science is like any other business, they need the regulatory environment to be clear, at the moment it's expensive, it's unclear, and it's uncertain in terms of what the procedures are over the next decade," Dr Parker says.

Gaining public approval will be difficult, however, with fierce debate earlier this century effectively seeing New Zealand become "GM free".

Countries such as Brazil are relaxing rules, preparing to cultivate genetically modified eucalyptus trees which produce around 20 per cent more wood.

Trials have been controversial, and any such move in New Zealand will be as well.

"The Treasury is out of touch with market realities," Simon Terry from the Sustainability Council says.

"Consumer opposition to GM foods is rising globally not falling and any weakening of NZ's GM laws would be a serious risk to food producers and would be working against Brand New Zealand."

Pressure is growing for a review on genetic engineering amid claims we’re missing out on multi-million dollar opportunities. Source: 1 NEWS


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‘Never have I ever heard Winston Peters request a question in writing’- 1 NEWS political team bemused by Deputy PM’s response to grilling

The Crown-Māori Relations portfolio has caused a headache for the coalition Government, after the influence of Winston Peters appears to have put heat on the Prime Minister and hampered announcements and the passing of legislation.

1 NEWS understood disagreements within the coalition forced Labour to abandon announcing detail of its Crown-Māori Relations portfolio earlier this week.

Mr Peters was unwilling to answer questions about the matter and when asked by 1 NEWS if NZ First vetoed the establishment of an agency for the Crown-Maori portfolio in the Ministry of Justice, he replied: "Well look I can't answer that question 'cause I don't have any recall of that."

The influence of Winston Peters is also believed to be putting the Prime Minister under pressure from rival MPs. Source: 1 NEWS

"Send me a written question, I'll give you an answer because I'm not going to do it off the top of my head. I don't have a very present recall of that."

On Inside Parliament this week, 1 NEWS reporter Maiki Sherman said she thought Mr Peters "had the memory of an elephant". 

"Never, have I ever heard Winston Peters request a question in writing. For him to say that he couldn't remember what happened just two days earlier, on quite a crucial issue, I knew there was smoke, and there was fire there."

Fellow reporter Benedict Collins said it was just "one of a string of events where NZ First appears to have pulled the rug out of Labour's feet at the very last minute". 

"It has to be embarrassing," Ms Sherman said. 

A weekly catch up with our political reporters about the stories they have been covering. Source: 1 NEWS

Listen to the full podcast on SoundcloudiTunes and Facebook

Is there trouble in coalition paradise? The Inside Parliament reporters discuss the developments. Source: 1 NEWS


Who is South Auckland's rogue zebra crossing painter?

A mysterious pedestrian crossing painter has struck again after a rogue zebra crossing popped up outside a South Auckland school - the second such occurrence at the school over the past year.

Patumahoe Primary School principal Jade Tawhiti spoke to TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning about the latest incident.

"The first one was in, I think it was November last year and it was quite a good job, that one - looked like a mini roller, pretty good white lines," he siad. "And they were actually good from the footpath when you're viewing them, but when you drove down the road, they were all over the show.

"It was quite funny at the time, but sort of when you thought about the safety implications of that, it wasn't so funny."

Mr Tawhiti said after the first incident, "Auckland Transport came rushing here (and) tore shreds out of our staff, sort of thinking that we did it".

He said Auckland Transport painted over the lines with blank paint, but the second time "someone's gone and used a spray can and spray painted the zebra lines".

A pedestrian crossing does need to be installed outside the school, the principal said, explaining that there are "a few variables" in place making it difficult to cross the road safely.

"(There's) high speeds from locals and passersby and there's a couple of funny corners and bends which create low visibility, and a few issues for kids crossing and parents," he said.

However, he says homemade paint jobs could be dangerous for students due to the confusion over whether or not it is safe to cross.

"At the end of the day, it creates confusion, so if you've got white lines and kids assuming it's a legal, proper pedestrian crossing, they're going to walk," he said. "As it stands now, it's what they call a care crossing, which actually has to be manned by patrollers or monitors, and we have the swinigng arms."

Auckland Transport spokesperson Mark Hannan said a real zebra crossing will be installed outside Patumahoe School by March or April of next year.
 

Patumahoe Primary School principal Jade Tawhiti spoke to Breakfast this morning about the incident. Source: 1 NEWS

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'I'm absolutely stoked' - Hamilton McDonald's worker scolded by manager now allowed to speak Te Reo Māori with customers

A McDonald's employee who was chastised by her manager for speaking Te Reo Māori at work has received an apology.

Janine Eru-Taueki, 19, was keen to celebrate Māori Language Week with customers at the Hamilton McDonald's where she worked, but had her enthusiasm dashed when a manager told her not to speak New Zealand's official language.

Janine was told it would be considered rude to address customers in a language other than English, she told Māori Television.

However, Māori Television now reports that Janine has received an apology from her manager and will be allowed to use te reo in the workplace from now on.

"I feel at peace about it now. They're allowing me and all Māori-speaking employees to speak Māori to staff and customers. I'm absolutely stoked," Janine says.

The teenager is also happy she gets to keep her job.

"I thought I might lose my job, but because they've changed their policy I still have a job."

McDonald's officials said they are learning from the situation and will explore policies that might better support Māori Language Week in the future.

The restaurant didn’t receive any customer complaints about Janine's bilingual efforts, they confirmed.

McDonald's Hamilton stores are planning to offer a bilingual menu to customers.


BPA-free plastic containers may not be less toxic

Substitutes for BPA plastics may have ingredients that cause similar problems as the product they're replacing.

Nearly two decades ago, researchers found the plastics ingredient known as BPA was causing a sudden increase in abnormal animal egg chromosomes.

The discovery resulted in more products being developed as alternatives, so they didn't contain the toxic ingredient.

However, Washington State University spokesperson, Patricia Hunt, said an array of substitutes used to replace BPA appear to come with similar problems.

Ms Hunt said more work is needed to determine whether some replacements are safer than others.

Plastic products that show physical signs of damage or ageing cannot be considered safe, she said.

Chemicals expert at the University of Melbourne, Professor Ian Rae, said whether someone has been affected by BPA won't be obvious straight away.

"BPA is known to be a hormone mimic. The activity is modest, but BPA is widely used in plastics and other materials and we are all exposed to it in one way or another.

"Because the effects are slow to develop and BPA may affect different people in different ways, it has been hard for regulators and even harder for consumers to assess the risks we may be facing. Most regulators have judged that the toxic effects are below levels of concern."

He said people need to be just as cautious around non-BPA products.

"Some manufacturers, perhaps sensing that bans might be imposed or - to take a more nuanced view - that consumers might respond to concerns expressed by others and avoid BPA-containing products, have taken cautious action.

"Some actions involve the use of materials that do not require the addition of BPA, but others mean turning from BPA to alternatives that can provide the same actions as BPA."

rnz.co.nz

Source: rnz.co.nz