This paper examines the effectiveness of applied science in a case study of two aspects of livestock and human poisoning in New Zealand, from the earliest European contact in the 1770s through to the 1950s. It considers the role and value of government science first in attempting to solve a problem that continues to affect New Zealand farmers, killing according to one estimate between 10 and 15 percent of their stock annually. Second, it addresses a related problem that has a much longer history of human poisoning, but that turned out to have quite unexpected causes in New Zealand. From this analysis, the historic bases on which present-day science funding policies were "reformed" in the 1990s are questioned.

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