The Legal Advisory Council (LeClerc) of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a government advisory committee, is considering whether to allow the grower to grow saffron legally under the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) rules for new varieties.
If the LeClerc approves the saffron’s cultivation, it will mark the first case to be decided by New Zealand’s most powerful court in this way.
At first blush, the proposal sounds absurd. Why would anyone want to grow saffron that has been genetically modified? That would be like eating an “artificial mango” grown with chemicals and other additives by a chemical giant that is not supposed to use such chemicals.
But that is exactly why the case for permitting saffron cultivation is so important.
We need more natural foods grown, not chemical products sprayed on them
As the legal debate unfolds this summer, the National Green Tribunal has been asked to consider the constitutionality of a regulation allowing growers to cultivate more than 600 plants per hectare every year. That regulation, set out in the National Seed Policy 2005, gives a growing permission to plant more than 60,000 saffron plants per hectare per year. That is equivalent to more than one kg of saffron per hectare every year.
The argument against planting saffron under that rate is simple: that because the saffron cannot be grown by hand, it makes more sense to grow it in a plastic bag which looks exactly like the saffron and will grow and rot, while not contaminating the ground in the process.
The argument in favour of allowing a greater amount of saffron cultivation is not really one of “natural” versus “chemical”, even though the government admits to using herbicides to control pests, including the Asian giant cotton bollworm.
Rather, it is the argument based on an ancient, “primitive” belief that the smell of a freshly harvested flower is an important reminder that it has no chemical ingredients left to poison, just nutrients. The argument is rooted in the belief that if you are going to eat saffron, it must be tasty.
A lot of people who grew up eating saffron before this year’s regulations took effect have noticed an increase in herbicide usage in gardens that were not part of the trial. It all started with the change of policy from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) in 2012. Before
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