Now here's an idea worth milking

JANE BOWRON
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2014

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OPINION: How now Fonterra cow? is the question for dairy farmers, the Government and the multi-national dairy company co-operative after last week's front-page news that a pseudo milk developed in a laboratory could threaten New Zealand's $17 billion dairy export industry.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy's response to the threat of a new beverage made without the cholesterol, allergen lactose and bacteria in cow's milk, was both patriotic and blase. Without sampling it because its estimated time of arrival is approximately 2016, Guy said: "I prefer our natural real milk produced from fantastic New Zealand pastures ... I won't be rushing out to buy a carton".

Meanwhile, animal advocates, environmentalists, allergen specialists and rivers, streams and waterways enraged and fouled by intensive dairy farming, all breathed a sigh of relief and raised three cheers for Muufri, the Californian milk research and redevelopment company riding in on its white horse to save the day and the waterways.

Guy might imagine people would prefer bona fide milk built in the supposed au natural factory of nine bovine stomachs rather than a Frankenstein variety concocted in a lab, but if it's cheaper, cuts out all the allergens and bacteria that has made it problematic for so many to absorb, and doesn't pollute rivers and streams, why wouldn't consumers make the switch? And why should the Kiwi consumer who has had to pay through the nose for the homegrown product and byproducts that have become luxury items often beyond the reach of their weekly pay packet, stay loyal?

If the Government doesn't pay serious heed to the threat of Muufri milk taking over the market and diversify after this heads up, then in the very near future New Zealand could be in the same dismal boat as Australia with its mining boom slow-down. Winding up the sacred cow dairy industry can't happen quickly enough as water, our greatest resource, is so rapidly being degraded. I used to joke to a relative who has made Australia their home that in a few climate-changed years time, I would be sending over glasses of water in a suitcase to relieve the thirsty inhabitants of the parched and dehydrated sunburned country. But that sarcastic offering could be in doubt because, to bastardise another rhyme, we are fast becoming that country where there is, "water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink".

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While on the topic of the wet stuff and dismal boats, what a relief that Trans-Tasman kayaker Scott Donaldson has thrown in his paddle and given up his attempt to become the first person to cross the ditch solo.

That is one less thing to worry about as he has for days battled inclement weather to reach New Plymouth and was at one stage slipping so far south his trajectory indicated he was well on his way to Antarctica to arrive as frozen meat. Now there's an export for you - Frozen Kiwi Sportsperson, not an ounce of fat on it, all muscle and sinew but steer clear of the rump it could prove leathery, sea boiled, salty and ridden hard and left out wet.

The 44-year-old set out on the trip to raise awareness of physical activity in partnership with the Asthma Foundation, but his record breaking attempt was extreme. What's wrong with a good walk, a gentle 30-minute stroll a day? Why does fundraising have to go to such extremes?

- Stuff

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