SIR, – In response to a letter from Angus MacDonald regarding L5 oats, perhaps before writing letters to the editor it would be helpful if he did some research and got the facts right.

Firstly, Plant Research (NZ) is a plant breeding company based in New Zealand. We were established in 2000. We are not, nor never have been, involved in genetic engineering (GE).

In fact, there are no plant breeders in New Zealand involved in GE, nor are there any GE crops grown in New Zealand. Our choice to not use GE is not because we don’t agree with it, it is simply not possible under current legislation to use these technologies in New Zealand.

You refer to hybridisation being GE. You are wrong on this point. Hybridisation is not GE. We use conventional plant breeding techniques – painstaking crossing of plants with desirable traits within the species of avena (oats) followed by observation of tens of thousands of plants over many years to make small incremental advances.

Our new variety L5 oats has been evaluated in conjunction with the James Hutton Institute and we are continuing small plot trials with a well-respected UK company. This variety has been under development for 10 years in New Zealand where we work closely with a New Zealand miller and the local oat growers.

Gordon Rennie, who visits New Zealand regularly, is a great advocate for our genetics. We are proud to be evaluating our varieties in Scotland in the beautiful Fife region, where we have family connections. We consider ourselves lucky to be working with one of Scotland’s best oat growers in Mr Rennie.

We are well aware of the regulations surrounding the registration and release of new varieties in the UK and we follow these regulations to the letter.

Mr MacDonald, we look forward to adding value to the UK oat industry whether it be for milling products or for new uses. Diversification of markets is important for any arable crop species and using oats for the production of very healthy beverages that are sustainable, healthy and good for the environment.

If you are ever in New Zealand, please get in touch and I would be happy to show you our operation and you can see first-hand what our young team are achieving.

Adrian Russell

Plant breeder and managing director Plant Research (NZ).