Source: The Land. By Colin Bettles.

18 December 2012

THE Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) has held its first ever meeting, agreeing to a vision, mission and various objectives.

The ABCA was launched in September at Parliament House in Canberra and aims to encourage national co-ordination of the Australian agricultural biotechnology sector to counter negative messaging about the controversial plant technology.

The Council wants to encourage informed debate on biotechnology – or genetically modified (GM) crops – through the provision of credible, balanced, science-based information.

The ABCA is a joint initiative of AusBiotech, CropLife Australia, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF).

Former deputy prime minister John Anderson and the former chairperson of CSIRO and Lieutenant Governor of Victoria Professor Adrienne Clarke are co-patrons, and Claude Gauchat is the inaugural Chairman.

At the time of launching, federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the Australian government welcomed the further engagement by industry in the biotechnology space that the ABCA would provide.

Minister Ludwig said the government considers that agricultural biotechnology can play an important part in helping to deal with emerging challenges, including those arising from climate change, pressure on global food supplies and the management of pests and diseases.

The Council issued a statement from its first meeting in early December saying its agreed vision was for the current and potential benefits of agricultural biotechnology to be “fully recognised” to ensure the Australian farming sector can adopt this technology for the benefit of national and global food security, the nation’s farming sector, and the environment, “thus helping to deliver a more sustainable and prosperous future for Australian agriculture”.

ABCA’s mission is to ensure that public awareness, public policy and the regulatory environment is guided by scientifically credible and factually correct information regarding the full benefits that agricultural biotechnology offers to Australian farming, as the world’s farming sector seeks to double production to meet the food and nutritional requirements of the growing global population.

“ABCA’s mission is guided by this global food security challenge and the role that Australian agriculture can play in working together to recognise that farmers will need access to the full range of modern innovative tools to maximise the output of our existing farming land while ensuring that the natural environment is protected, conserved and enhanced,” the statement said.

In discussing opportunities and challenges for the Australian agricultural biotechnology sector, the Council members agreed the following issues were of strategic importance;

  • Development of an effective, evidence-based communications approach that is focussed on public awareness, public policy and the regulatory environment
  • Identifying the value and benefits of the Australian agricultural biotechnology sector
  • Supporting coexistence between agricultural production systems in Australia.

“As Australia develops its National Food Plan and prepares to make the most of the opportunities presented by the Asian Century, it is absolutely key that Australian farmers have access to every available tool and technology,” the statement said.

“Agricultural biotechnology is one such tool, which presents enormous opportunities, both for the productivity of Australian agriculture and in delivering global food security.”

The Ag Institute of Australia, AusBiotech, Australian Oilseeds Federation, Australian Seed Federation, Cotton Australia, CropLife Australia, Grain Trade Australia, GRDC, NFF and Science and Technology Australia were represented at the meeting.

ABCA’s next meeting will be held in March 2013.