Archive for March, 2013


Source: The Land, 15 March 2013

GENETICALLY modified (GM) canola plantings are likely to come back as part of an overall smaller canola plant this year.

Nick Goddard, executive director at the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) said it was likely there would be less canola planted overall than last year’s bumper plant.

“We’re likely to lose a lot of those acres that were planted in drier areas, where canola is perceived as a risk, but looking on averages, it will still be a reasonable sized crop, providing there is an autumn break,” Mr Goddard said.

He said while GM Roundup Ready (RR) lines had a reasonable fit in Western Australian farming systems, on the east coast it was being used more sparingly.

“It’s used more tactically than as a widespread choice in NSW and Victoria, probably less so than the other two herbicide tolerant lines, the triazine tolerant (TT) and Clearfield varieties,” Mr Goddard said.

Rob Sonogan, senior consultant at Agrivision, an agronomy firm based in Swan Hill in Victoria’s Mallee, said RR was lagging behind TT and Clearfield varieties in his area.

“The TTs are certainly very popular, the only issue there is with potential residual problems for the following year’s crop, if there is a dry summer,” Mr Sonogan said.

Mr Sonogan said there was no ideological concerns about RR, but said a combination of relatively high costs, lower prices and limited delivery options meant it was not particular popular in the Mallee.

“It’s probably not that much dearer than other herbicide tolerant lines now, but there is still a reasonable discount to conventional canola lines and there can be additional freight costs, as there aren’t a lot of segregations there,” Mr Sonogan said.

“When you combine that with consistently lower yields for RR lines, there is no compelling reason to plant it.”

Mr Sonogan also said preserving the efficacy of glyphosate was another reason not to plant it.

“Glyphosate is so crucial to farming systems in the Mallee and Wimmera that farmers are making sure they don’t overuse it.”

In the Riverina, agronomist John Sykes, John Sykes Rural Consulting, Albury, said overall canola plantings will be back.

“There was a big canola plant last year, and rotationally, we’re limited in the paddocks we can choose,” Mr Sykes said.




Source: The Land, 10 March 2013.

PROFESSOR Wayne Parrott says those who oppose crop-biotechnology based on anti-science views should spend a day living in impoverished countries and experience first-hand what impact their activism is having on lives.

The University of Georgia Crop Science Professor was one of nine international experts who contributed to the damning, broad analysis of the now discredited Seralini rat-feeding study on GM corn that was released last year.

Speaking to Fairfax Agricultural Media, Professor Parrott said the research was the worst example of an attempt to discredit GMs that he had seen during his plant breeding career.

He said the French study was carefully orchestrated to be “as sensationalist as possible”, with a movie filmed during the experiment, accompanied by a dedicated book and media blitz.

Sensationalist photos were also used (of rats used in the experiments), even though they had to violate animal ethics guidelines to get the photos, he said.

Prof. Parrott said the most concerning and alarming aspect of the entire issue was the undermining of public confidence in biotechnology and government agencies charged with regulating it.

Another of the report’s authors, University of Canberra toxicology expert Andrew Bartholomaeus, said research papers like Seralini’s and the extremist activism that uses them, leads to disproportionate regulation of GM crops.

The former Risk Assessment General Manager at FSANZ said big commercial groups may actually gain an advantage, because they have the resources to comply with the regulatory requirements.

But the real victims are the humanitarian crop developers, he said, who have largely given up and moved onto other applications.

Consequently, hundreds of biotechnology crops that have been developed to help the poorest, most vulnerable people in the world, are sitting on shelves, because no one can afford to address the onerous and irrational regulatory requirements, he said.

“This is reprehensible,” he said.

“I have spoken with and have provided advice and assistance to scientists working on humanitarian biotechnology initiatives funded by large charitable trusts such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“These initiatives are developing solutions to address starvation, malnourishment and poor health of the most vulnerable people in the world.

“Publications such as that of Seralini, and the purposes to which they are put, undermine the enormous benefits that can come from nutritionally enhanced or pest resistant crops developed specifically for these vulnerable groups.”

Dr Bartholomaeus said the report’s nine authors decided to take action because they were “appalled” at the misinformation presented to the public supporting anti-GM “extremists”.

For the full article, follow the Source link above.


Can NZ afford to ignore GM?

Source: Central South Island Farmer, 06/03/13

Nuffield scholar Michael Tayler is questioning how much longer New Zealand can continue to turn its back on the opportunities genetic modification technology has to offer.

The Temuka cropping farmer spent last year travelling the world as part of his study looking at new technologies.

After meeting with countless farmers, scientists and agricultural leaders GM and the possibilities it offered came up again and again, he said.

“Before I left, I had no pre-conceived ideas about GM. I just wanted to look at what technologies might improve yields for arable farmers.”

He became convinced that New Zealand should at least keep an open mind to the benefits that GM technology offered.

He outlined his findings in his report, ‘New Technologies in Arable Farming’.

He accepts there is an argument for New Zealand becoming a niche producer, targeting high-end export markets but questions the viability of New Zealand positioning itself as a non-GM country long-term.

“Many surveys show that consumer attitudes to GM crops are softening, albeit slowly, and if that trend continues we may well be left producing for a shrinking market while our competitors embrace the new technologies, leaving us at a competitive disadvantage”

He was convinced New Zealand would one day grow GM crops, but it would need consumer acceptance for it to be done successfully.

“New Zealand shouldn’t blindly turn its back on it.

“We should at least have a look at it, but the key will be to get the public on board.”

Overseas surveys showed that attitudes towards GM food were becoming more favourable, he said.

There would be increasing pressure on agriculture to lift production in the wake of world food shortages brought about by a growing world population.

GM technology was one of the tools that farmers could use to feed these people.

He believed it was possible for GM, conventional and organic farming systems to co-exist.

If organic and conventional farming systems could operate side by side, GM and non-GM farms could do so too, he said.

“There is no doubt there will be challenges, but there is already co-existence of GM and non-GM in other countries.

He pointed to the development of genetically modified wheat that was aphid-resistant as an example of a crop that could benefit New Zealand farmers. Growing it could save thousands of dollars in insecticide costs, creating environmental benefits as well as financial ones.

New Zealand needed to have a mature, reasoned debate over the pros and cons of GM.

It was also time for another high level study into GM in New Zealand.

This last occurred in 2001 when a Royal Commission report was released, he said.

“We need to have a look at it because in 10-15 years time, the bulk of the food produced in the world may be genetically modified and if we haven’t at least researched what opportunities are available, we could be left behind.”

Ultimately the markets and the consumers would decide.

The easiest way to stop GM food would be for people to stop buying it, but demand was growing worldwide, he said.

GM was a huge area and not all of GM technology would be suitable for New Zealand farming systems.

But New Zealand farmers could cherry-pick the proven technology that is most appropriate and still maintain the country’s clean green brand integrity.

“I do understand it is an emotive topic but I believe everyone has the right to choose.

“I’m not saying we should jump into GM boots and all, it’s not the silver bullet for global food shortages, but there is some exciting stuff out there that’s happening with GM and the science will only get better.

“How long can we afford to ignore it?”


GM pioneer blasts scare tactics

Source: The West Australian 05/03/13

One of the pioneers of genetically modified crops in WA has hit out at a prime-time television advertising campaign that links GM foods to cancer, kidney and liver damage.

The Safe Food Foundation campaign targets Liberal Party and WA Nationals support for GM crops in what is believed to be a world-first in food safety election lobbying.

Cunderdin farmer David Fulwood said there was no credible research to suggest GM crops were unsafe.

Mr Fulwood harvested WA’s first commercial-sized trial of GM canola in late 2009 and since then has become even more convinced of its value to grain growers as a crop and agronomic tool.

“Farmers are up against it anyway and the last thing we need is to have this taken away because of an emotional campaign,” he said.

“The current genes are only the start of good things to come for producers and consumers as well. The benefits of will be huge in terms of feeding hungry people and feeding them nutritionally.”

SFF director Scott Kinnear defended the TV campaign, which shows laboratory rats deformed by tumours and endorses a vote for Labor or the Greens based on their anti-GM policies.

“It is premature to grow GM crops in WA because they haven’t been proved to be safe to reasonable standards,” Mr Kinnear.

Mr Kinnear, an agricultural scientist specialising in biochemistry, acknowledged the claims in the TV campaign were based on a study attacked by other scientists.

Large parts of the Seralini study, published in respected US science journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, have been rebutted by food regulation agencies.

Mr Kinnear said Seralini was a long-term feeding study whereas regulatory agencies continued to rely on short-term feeding studies.

Only two GM crops can be grown in WA – cotton on the Ord River and canola.

Premier Colin Barnett said while there were no plans to extend GM approvals, it was important to embrace scientific advances.

“While there is no proposal to go beyond that (canola and cotton) at this stage, many farmers are advocating other GM applications,” Mr Barnett said.

“At the moment we’re sticking with GM canola and I think there’s nearly 100,000ha being grown.”

Mr Fulwood said any commercial planting of GM wheat in WA was a “long way off” and might not happen at all depending on market signals.

“Farmers follow market signals closely and if the market signals it doesn’t want GM wheat obviously we’ll respect that,” he said.