Soy shows way to GMO free

Declaring¬†Hawke’s Bay a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)-free region is just plain business sense, says Hastings grower Scott Lawson.

“We have to take advantage of this marketing opportunity,” he said.

OPPORTUNITY: Hastings grower Scott Lawson says his soy bean crop is living proof of the benefits to be gained by Hawke's Bay should it embrace a GMO-free status. PHOTO/GLENN TAYLOR HBT120530-03

His crop of soy beans was proof of the added value the GMO-free status could give to all Hawke’s Bay produce. “There is clear interest in the market place for GMO-free soy beans.”

Soy beans were once grown more often in Hawke’s Bay but growers could not compete with the economy of scale enjoyed by larger countries.

The use of genetically modified soy beans overseas had created a demand for Hawke’s Bay soy beans, which Mr Lawson sold through health shops.

“It is difficult to get VMO verified soy from the United States – 80-90 per cent is contaminated.”

He said while he was struggling to build his yield – this year’s crop was just his second – he said the exercise was worthwhile.

Others growers were trialling soy in Hawke’s Bay but all were finding it difficult with soy preferring a warmer climate, he said.

One grower had partnered with a seed company to find a soy variety suitable for Hawke’s Bay conditions.

No GMOs are commercially grown in New Zealand, but if that should happen, he said it could wipe billions from the New Zealand brand.

Hawke’s Bay growers were already benefiting from New Zealand’s reputation GMO-free status, he said.

“Heinz Wattie’s and McCain are struggling to find GMO-free product worldwide. There are many other growers in New Zealand producing seed or produce because of it.

“Hawke’s Bay has a real opportunity to enrich the Hawke’s Bay brand with a GMO-free declaration.”

Mr Lawson is a member of the lobby group Pure Hawke’s Bay which has appealed to Hawke’s Bay councils to make a stand on the issue for the economic and environmental good of the region.

His business, Lawson’s True Earth Certified Organics, enjoys premium prices for its soy, blueberries, carrots, onions, maize, pumpkins and lucerne.

The premium price helps offset the higher cost of organic production.

Just as his business enjoys a premium price with a little extra work, so too will Hawke’s Bay growers enjoy premium prices with conventionally grown produce as GMOs become prevalent overseas, he said.

“We have everything to gain.”

Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Murray Douglas said a moratorium “is an equation that still has not been worked out”. Some growers relied on producing large volumes so could possibly benefit from GMOs.

“The question is, which bottom line works best?”

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