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Vital research declined funding

National says the loss of funding for varroa bee mite research will put not only the honey industry at risk but also have a profound impact on the horticultural and agricultural industries.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has stopped funding the research after two years, and the Foundation for Research Science and Technology has now declined funding the research.

National Science Spokesperson Dr Paul Hutchison says leaving the varroa mite to spread further without continued research leaves a dangerous vacuum for New Zealand.

"The steady invasion of the varroa mite has major implications for our agriculture, horticulture and honey industries, because it destroys bee populations we rely on to pollinate food crops.

"It is as though the Government has given up just when the varroa mite is at the point of crossing to the South Island.

"It seems incredible that the Government won't prioritise this research particularly when the first incursion was due to a disastrous breach of bio security, and was preventable. The research included finding bees resistant to the mite, work on new products to combat it, and monitoring changing resistance of the mite to chemicals.

"New Zealand has had a bee research unit for almost 90 years. The Government is stopping vital research on this mite at a time when New Zealand industries are particularly vulnerable. The country's only three bee scientists may be dispersed to other work.

"The Government must ensure that this bee research continues, whether it is funded by MAF or the Foundation for Research Science and Technology," Dr Hutchison says.

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