Keeping it GE-Free

24 November 2015

The FAR Women in Arable group being shown around Oil Seed Extractions last week.

New Zealand should stay GE-free because that's our point of difference with overseas markets, according to the marketing manager of Oil Seed Extractions.

Speaking to the Women in Arable group recently, Nigel Hosking said he was promoting New Zealand origin flax seed oils (called Linseed in NZ) at a health expo in Japan in 2008 when they closed the border to Canada over GE being found in seed.

"They said it would be two to three years before we got into the market, but two months later I had my first export order going air freight to Japan and now we have regular loyal customers there."

Alongside hemp, linseed remains one of the company's biggest products as it has the highest omega 3 percentages when grown in New Zealand, compared to anywhere else in the world.

"Traditionally oil seed crops are grown in the European Union, China and Canada and are around 52 to 55 per cent (in omega 3), but some in New Zealand are as high as 59 per cent."

Mr Hosking puts the quality of our linseed down to our temperate climate and the breeding of different cultivars.

A trial conducted in the Wairarapa last year confirmed the quality of Canterbury's crop, with the North Island climate producing 5 per cent lower in omega 3.

A polyunsaturated "good" fat, linseed oil is essential for nutrition and can help healing and improve the health of your skin and hair.

Currently, Oil Seed Extraction has three main customers in Japan - one that buys bulk oil and bottles it under his own brand and distributes it to supermarkets.

Another customer buys bulk oil to turn into capsules for the supplement market, while the third main customer takes pre-bottled oil and distributes it.

Since 2008 the company has air freighted 150 shipments to Japan and wants to continue to increase the crop.

Midlands Seeds research development manager Joanne Townshend said that after World War Two around 40,000 hectares of linseed was grown in New Zealand and the oil was heat extracted at a plant in Dunedin where it was added to paints to help them dry quicker.

Ms Townshend said linseed was a hardy plant and contracted ground had grown 10 per cent every year since 2011.

While the traditional seed was brown, the company was also growing yellow and golden varieties - where they would be used in the baking market in breads.

"The Japanese are interested in the yellow linseed."

Yellow varieties had a lower Omega 3 content, she said.

"Even though some varieties yield better than others, they are not necessarily accepted by the customers which is always a bit of a challenge."

There were three price tiers for the crop with a conventional grade, a chemical-free grade and organic grade.

While most chemicals didn't have a residue in the oil, Gallant remained an issue.

"It's attracted to fats and oils."

Ms Townshend and Mr Hosking also talked about the other crops the company extract oil from including hemp, borage, evening primrose oil and meadowfoam.