Archive for June, 2013


Roundup Ready Canola Sales Surge 22 per cent

24 June 2013. Monsanto Media Release. Source:


Growers have purchased a record 550 tonnes of Roundup Ready canola seed this season.

New high performing varieties, the reopening of China’s market and negligible premiums for non-GM canola drove the 22% increase in sales from last year.

The strong sales growth follows National Variety Trials (NVT) that reveal Roundup Ready canola varieties have higher oil content and are higher yielding than other herbicide tolerant varieties.

Monsanto Australia Managing Director, Daniel Kruithoff, said that grower confidence in Roundup Ready canola is increasing every season.

“The 22% growth in sales demonstrates the confidence that growers have in the performance of Roundup Ready canola. This is a particularly impressive result given the forecast drop in overall canola plantings this season.

“Roundup Ready canola growers can also look forward to prices that are within $10 of those for non-GM canola. The benefits of Roundup Ready canola significantly outweigh the small price difference which is why growers are buying more of it each and every year.

“Roundup Ready canola sales have increased every year since it was commercialised in 2009 which clearly demonstrates the value growers place on having the freedom to choose GM crops,” Daniel said.

NVT data shows that compared with other top varieties, Roundup Ready canola is on average yielding 12 per cent higher than Triazine Tolerant canola and 6 per cent higher than Clearfield over the last three years.

The trials also reveal that Roundup Ready canola has higher oil content on average than TT varieties helping growers generate more income from the crop.

“The NVT data suggests that growers can also expect more than just reliable weed control from Roundup Ready canola. New high performing varieties offer growers improved yields and oil content,” Daniel said.

For further information about Roundup Ready canola visit


GM considered to remedy field pea disease

20 June 2013. Source:

A SCIENTIST with 20 years experience breeding field peas (Pisum sativum L.) recommends genetic modification research to mitigate the effects of black spot (Didymella pinodes).

“We have made significant progress in developing moderately resistant varieties of peas but more robust resistance has been illusive,” Professor Tanveer Khan says.

Prof Khan, who is now a research professor at The UWA Institute of Agriculture, has just led a review of international methods trialled to combat the disease, which he says have only been partially successful for growers in Australia.

He says black spot is endemic to most areas of the country planted with field peas.

The fungus survives on pea stubble, releasing spores into the air with the first winter rains.

Prof Khan says yields are relatively low in Australia, so it is not economical to apply fungicides to growing crops although there has been some success with applying fungicides to the seeds themselves.

He says a more successful method in Australia has been to delay sowing for two to three weeks after the first winter rains, after which time most of the spores have been released and fallen on to the soil rather than the growing plants.

The disadvantage of this method is a reduction in crop yield of up to 25 per cent, due to the limited growing season.

Prof Khan says climate change may bring more summer rains which would tend to exhaust most of the spore before pea planting season, however the amount of winter rain and consequent effect on pea yields is unknown.

He says breeding for resistance has had limited results, producing partially-resistant varieties of pea which he recommends be trialled for earlier plantings and/or single fungicide spraying.

Research is in progress to develop molecular marker technology to help development of resistant varieties but he says there have been no major breakthroughs so far.

“A remote possibility is, can you actually have a big breakthrough with genetic modification?” Prof Khan says.

“Can you actually import some resistance from some other alien species into peas?

“I think there’s a good reason why we should invest in some very novel technology.

“In Western Australia there are about 70,000ha grown.

“If we are able to control black spot in future we’re going to see peas becoming a very big crop.

“Potentially peas are the best plant, they are very adaptable, you can grow peas in all sorts of soil and climate.”

Professor Khan is a Research Professor at the UWA Institute of Agriculture, Faculty of Science, The University of Western Australia. In the past, he was an operational plant breeder concentrating on grain legumes for two decades with the WA Department of Agriculture and Food.

He initiated and produced the review in conjunction with scientists based in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Spain.



20 June 2013. Source: CropLife Australia –

New reports from the anti-GM lobby are becoming more and more disconnected from reality. The plant science industry is calling on consumers to look at the weight of credible, independent evidence, rather than the latest activist claims.

Matthew Cossey, CEO of CropLife Australia said today, “The same old claims about GM crops are being trotted out by the anti-GM lobby. It’s an issue so frequently discussed, with so much misinformation that it can be hard for consumers and farmers to sort fact from fiction. The logic that cuts through the deception is that if GM crops really didn’t work, farmers wouldn’t use them.

“Yet farmers continue to adopt the technology in increasing numbers. Data on the global adoption of GM crops shows that GM technology is used by more than 16 million farmers worldwide. The global area of biotech crops has increased one hundred fold since they were first commercialised in 1996. Just last year, global adoption of GM crops increased by 6 per cent to reach 170.3 million hectares.

“If crop biotechnology had not been available to the 16.7 million farmers using the technology in 2011, maintaining global production at the 2011 levels would have required additional plantings equivalent to 33 per cent of the arable land in Australia. That’s over 15 million hectares of forest and natural habitat saved by the use of crop biotechnology.

“So why are so many farmers switching to GM crops? Between 1996 and 2011, the global farm income gain from GM crops has been US$98.2 billion. Farmers are astute business people, if GM crops didn’t put more money in their pockets, they wouldn’t buy GM seed the next season.

“Despite these gains, some states are still missing out. Over the past decade, Tasmania’s agricultural sector has suffered a $71 million loss due to a moratorium on genetically modified organisms. South Australia will have lost around $115 million by 2019. This is in stark contrast to mainland states that have generated over AUD $595 million in farm gate benefits from GM crops since 1996, without compromising their ability to successfully market conventional or organic produce.

“In Australia, growing GM cotton varieties has seen environmental benefits resulting from decreased insecticide use and changes in the types of insecticides and herbicides used. Almost 100 per cent of Australia’s cotton crop is now grown with GM varieties. Cultivation of GM insect resistant cotton varieties has enabled a reduction in the amount of insecticide active ingredient used by up to 85 per cent. This, in conjunction with industry stewardship practices, has greatly reduced the potential for chemical runoff into rivers in cotton growing regions of Australia

“The types of chemical being used have also changed. Because of the ‘in-built’ insecticide in GM insect resistant cotton, insect control can be more targeted and specific, meaning there is less of an impact on non-target organisms, allowing beneficial (ie. predatory insects) to remain in the crop.

“GM crops currently under research and development in Australia will help Australian farmers to combat environmental stresses such as drought, acid soils and salinity, which are being caused by climatic changes and previous non-sustainable farming practices. There is also considerable Australia research into GM traits that will bring health benefits to consumers, such as healthier starches, and cooking oils modified to be lower in saturated fats and with improved cooking qualities.”

“GM crops are continuing to deliver significant productivity gains and environmental benefits. If they weren’t, farmers wouldn’t be using them and we wouldn’t be seeing industries like the Australian cotton industry having the success it enjoys today,” concluded Mr Cossey.



Statement on the Detection of Genetically Engineered Wheat in Oregon

14 June 2013. Source: USDA

USDA Office of Communications Director Matt Paul gave the following update on the detection of genetically engineered wheat in Oregon:

On May 29, USDA announced that a small number of volunteer wheat plants in an Oregon field had tested positive for genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat. Extensive testing confirmed the wheat as a variety – MON71800 – developed by Monsanto.

The detection of this wheat variety does not pose a public health or food safety concern. Monsanto worked with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004 to complete a voluntary food and feed safety consultation. Completion of the FDA consultation process means this variety is as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market.

USDA began an investigation into this matter on May 3 when an Oregon State University scientist notified USDA’s officials that plant samples they had tested positive for a protein that made them resistant to glyphosate.

As of today, USDA has neither found nor been informed of anything that would indicate that this incident amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm. All information collected so far shows no indication of the presence of GE wheat in commerce. Investigators are conducting a thorough review. They have interviewed the person that harvested the wheat from this field as well as the seed supplier who sold the producer wheat seed; obtained samples of the wheat seed sold to the producer and other growers; and obtained samples of the producer’s wheat harvests, including a sample of the producer’s 2012 harvest. All of these samples of seed and grain tested negative for the presence of GE material. Investigators are continuing to conduct interviews with approximately 200 area growers.

On June 13, 2013, USDA validated an event-specific PCR (DNA-based) method for detecting MON71800 (provided by Monsanto to USDA on May 23, 2013). The USDA validation process included a specificity study and a sensitivity study. USDA determined that the method can reliably detect MON71800 when it is present at a frequency of 1 in 200 kernels. Additionally, USDA has provided this validated DNA test method to detect this specific GE variety to our trading partners that have requested it.

Major markets, such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan, have postponed imports of U.S. white wheat as they continue to study information from U.S. officials to determine what, if any, future action may be required. USDA officials will continue to provide information as quickly as possible as the investigation continues – with a top priority on giving our trading partners the tools they need to ensure science-based trade decisions.



GMO debate stretches from farm to table

14 June 2013. Source:

Among the 20 genetically modified crops now awaiting USDA approval, two stand out — a new potato and an apple.

While most of the biotech crops being evaluated will be fed to livestock or crushed for biofuel feedstock, the potato and apple are intended for human consumption, sparking keen interest among both the farmers who will grow them and the public who will eat them.

Simplot Plant Sciences introduced the biotech potato, called Innate, that is engineered to resist browning and black spot disease and to have fewer sugars and acrylamide, a substance linked to cancer and is produced when a potato is fried.

A Canadian company, Summerland, B.C.-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits, introduced Arctic apples, which stay white after slicing. That makes them good for a variety of uses such as packaged apple slices and to be served in restaurants…

GMO polling

While opponents remain confident about the public’s feelings on GMOs, polls that Simplot and Okanagan commissioned reveal far greater acceptance to GMO staples.

A Simplot study of 1,000 consumers found 60 percent support general GMO technology, 91 percent approve of Simplot’s Innate method and 93 percent are comfortable with traditional breeding. Simplot has emphasized that its technology introduces only genes from other potatoes, rather than different species, to silence expression of specific traits.

In its study, Okanagan, which uses a similar approach to incorporate only other apple genes to silence browning traits in its Arctic apple, found 78 percent of 1,000 consumers were neutral, somewhat likely or extremely likely to buy the product after hearing about it, and only 12 percent were not at all likely to buy it. Nonetheless, industry groups including the U.S. Apple Association and the Northwest Horticultural Council have come out against the Arctic apple, fearing it might turn off some consumers.

As for potatoes, Freese recalls Monsanto’s Colorado potato beetle-resistant GM spud NewLeaf, released in 2000 and discontinued a few years later based on trade partners’ concerns. In general, consumers in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are wary of GM food.

Rupert, Idaho, grower Duane Grant was among the farmers who planted NewLeaf and intends to plant Innate as soon as possible. He believes the reaction to the Oregon wheat issue doesn’t reflect on other GMOs.

“The Innate potato, once they go through the regulatory process, it would be legal, and then distinctly different than Roundup Ready wheat,” Grant said. “If the consumer has a choice of a healthier potato, and healthier as a result of genetic modification that brings no additional risk to the table, the consumer will make an informed decision to buy it.”

By contrast, Freese believes the GM wheat controversy will fuel support for GMO labeling ballot initiatives. Connecticut recently approved the nation’s first labeling law, which would only take effect after at least four other states, including a neighboring state, enact similar requirements, and Washington will vote on a similar proposal in November. An Oregon initiative is in the early stages.

“There have been GMO labeling initiatives in dozens of states. That’s unprecedented,” Freese said.

Other GMO crops…

Simplot marketing and public relations director Doug Cole said his company intends to segregate all of its Innate spuds from the general supply, a strategy Okanagan will also use with its apples, and has already begun the deregulatory process in Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Japan to avert the problems that derailed NewLeaf.

“We expect approval next year by USDA and to be on the market in 2014, with more seed in 2015 and 2016,” Cole said. “We believe all of these traits we’re working on to improve the potato are going to have a dramatic effect on the industry over time. We also believe it may take time to build broad acceptance.”

In a survey for Simplot led by University of Idaho agricultural economist Joe Guenthner, 67 percent of growers expressed willingness to plant GM spuds in the future. Furthermore, Guenthner said the growers believe consumers will be far more likely to embrace so-called “green” GMO technology, which introduces traits only from the same species…




14 June 2013. Source:

The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has granted approval for Rothamsted Research to extend a trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat this autumn.

The independent Advisory Committee of Releases to the Environment found that the trial will have no adverse effects on human health or the environment. Defra has set precautionary conditions to ensure no GM material will enter the food chain.

In 2011 Defra authorised Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire to plant its GM aphid-resistant wheat in spring 2012 and 2013. The GM wheat produces a naturally occurring pheromone that not only repels aphids, but also attracts their natural enemies, such as ladybirds and wasps.

Currently, a significant proportion of the UK wheat crop is treated with chemical insecticides to control cereal aphids, which reduce yields by sucking sap from the plants and transmitting barley yellow dwarf virus.

Unfortunately, repeated use of such chemical sprays leads to aphids developing resistance to insecticides, while killing other beneficial species of insects and thereby damaging ecosystems.

Despite potential gains to be made by developing GM wheat with natural defence against aphids, Rothamsted was targeted by anti-GM activists last year. Defra said extending the trial will enable further data to be obtained on the performance of GM wheat later in the year, under different weather conditions and against different aphid populations.

A crop of spring-sown Cadenza GM wheat is being grown at the research centre. The autumn extension will be sown in mid-September and destroyed after 10-12 weeks in late November or December.


Pigs in the real world – feed them different diets, measure many health parameters, some which show differences – but what does it all mean?

12 June 2013. Source:

A long awaited study by Australian Dr Judy Carman has appeared in the open access journal Journal of Organic Systems. It is an American-Australian collaboration, including Carman’s IHER, Howard Vlieger’s non-GMO marketing operation Verity Farms based in Iowa in the United States. It seems to be the same study for which a preliminary report has been presented at a South American scientific conference several years back.

It is an investigation in which pigs were fed a so-called real world diets for ~23 weeks, and analysed for about 35 health related parameters.

In most of the parameters measured on these pigs there is no apparent difference between animals fed a diet that included genetically modified corn and genetically modified soy beans compared to pigs fed conventional mixture of the same grains, but two out of about 35 measured parameters showed a difference.

These are presence of inflammation in the animal gut at autopsy gut and average size of female animal’s ovaries.

The question raised by the study is what are the reasons for these differences. Are they due to chance, because of the random distribution of differences between individual animals: are they caused by the diet, and if they are caused by the diet, or is the indeed transgenic components of the diet that has possible causal effect.

The paper by Carman and colleagues avoids rigourous analysis of whether the differences are attributable to chance.

In the study there is no clear-cut hypothesis about what component(s) of the diet is different and what effect the component might have specifically on the animal.

Instead of a well formulated prior hypothesis the investigation consists of a survey of a fairly large number of parameters -18 are mentioned in one table, 17 in another, and there is no necessary statistical analysis to check for false discovery of effects because of repeated searching for differences.

It’s what some call a fishing expedition in search of a finding, and a known pitfall of animal feeding trials on whole foods.

The individual statistical tests actually done in this study in each of the individual parameters measured do not provide for this false discovery rate effect due to multiple testing testing.

Using the standard criteria of a one in 20 chance that observed differences are randomly generated, about one or two apparent effects in this study might be a false discovery.

The observed differences might also be caused by compositional differences in the variety of soybeans or corn used in the study, and the crucial difficulty with such a complicated study is that there are many components in these animals diets.

Unfortunately there is relatively little information in the paper about nutritional formulation, methods used for producing the pig diets, storage time for the grain and which particular varieties of grain were used in the diets.

A crucial missing piece of information is analysis for soybean isoflavone content. Soybean isoflavones are known compounds with female animal hormone activity, and as some differences were seen in ovary size in these animals, whether or not they have been exposed to different levels of isoflavones in formulating the two test diets is a most obvious question that does not appear to be considered by these investigators.

Because of the complicated way the experiments have been designed for this investigation we don’t know the answer to this question.

The study claims to be an investigation of the real world effects on hog health health. The real world is full of complications when it comes of physiological effects of diets and we still don’t know whether the observed differences between the test group –“GMO diet” as compared with “Conventional diet “– are explained by chance, due to the high number of different types of tests carried out in the animals, or whether some of these differences are caused by grain composition variation — especially soy isoflavone variation.

The most particular difference is a claim about ovary size variation — and the papers authors do not seem to be aware of the very plausible effects of differences between the test and control diets in phyto-oestrogen compounds in the different soybean varieties used in the diets.

Perhaps the most newsworthy nonscientific aspect of the report is the statement about conflicts of interest in which none are claimed.

The Verity Farms non-GMO grain marketing venture linkage is not seen to be a conflict of interest, and a previous revelation on Australian television channel SBS by Dr Carman that the Institute of Responsible Technology associated with Fairfield, Iowa based author Jeffrey Smith was funding such studies is also not mentioned in the paper.

A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a mixed GM diet. Adverse effects of GM crops found.

11 June 2013. Source: Dr. Judy Carman

This is a briefing about the contents of a new, peer-reviewed scientific paper titled: A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM corn maize diet, by Dr Judy Carman, Howard Vlieger, Dr Larry Ver Steeg, Veryln Sneller, Dr Garth Robinson, Dr Kate Clinch- Jones, Dr Julie Haynes and Dr John Edwards.

At a commercial piggery in the US, we took 168 just-weaned pigs and fed them a typical diet for the piggery, containing soy and corn, for 22.7 weeks (over 5 months) until the pigs were slaughtered at their usual slaughter age. Half of the pigs were fed widely-used varieties of GM soy and GM corn (the GM-fed group) for this whole period and the other half of the pigs were fed an equivalent non-GM diet (the control group). The GM diet contained three GM genes and therefore three GM proteins. One protein made the plant resistant to a herbicide and two proteins were insecticides. We chose a mixed diet instead of a single crop because this is usually what pigs and people eat. Regulators do not require animal feeding studies on mixtures of GM genes and their proteins, regardless of whether the genes are all “stacked” into the one plant or spread across several plants that are eaten in the same meal. We chose pigs because they have a similar digestive system to humans, and because some of the investigators had been observing reproductive and digestive problems in pigs fed GM crops. We took blood from the pigs a few days before they were slaughtered to do standard biochemistry tests. Autopsies were done by qualified veterinarians who didn’t know if a given pig was fed the GM diet or not, so their observations were completely unbiased.

Some of the investigators had previously seen a reduced ability to conceive and higher rates of miscarriage in piggeries where sows were fed a GM diet, and a reduction in the number of piglets born if boars were used for conception rather than artificial insemination. Artificial insemination guarantees the presence of a certain number of viable sperm. Because male pigs were neutered at 3 days of age in order to provide meat free of boar-taint, we were only able to look at the female reproductive system in these pigs. We found that, on average, the weight of the uterus of pigs fed the GM diet, as a proportion of the weight of the pig, was 25% higher than the control pigs. We found that this biologically significant finding was also statistically significant. We list some of the pathologies that could be occurring in these uteri in the paper.

Some of the investigators had also previously seen higher rates of intestinal problems in pigs fed a GM diet, including inflammation of the stomach and small intestine, stomach ulcers, a thinning of intestinal walls and an increase in haemorrhagic bowel disease, where a pig can rapidly “bleed-out” from their bowel and die. We weren’t able to look inside the intestines, due to the amount of food in them, but we were able to look inside the stomach. We found that the level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed the GM diet. Pigs on the GM diet were 2.6 times more likely to get severe stomach inflammation than control pigs. Males were more strongly affected. While female pigs were 2.2 times more likely to get severe stomach inflammation when on the GM diet, males were 4 times more likely. These findings are both biologically significant and statistically significant.

We found that these key findings were not reflected in the standard biochemistry tests that are done in GM feeding studies, probably because standard biochemistry tests provide a poor measure of inflammation and matters associated with uterus size. We did however find a marginally significant change on a measure of liver health in the blood of GM-fed pigs.



Genetically Engineered Crop Prevails Again in Court

25 May 2013. Source: [USA] National Law Review

In a major development for the agricultural biotechnology industry, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld the decision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to deregulate Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready Alfalfa (RR Alfalfa)…The Court rejected all of plaintiffs’ claims and affirmed in all respects the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision is the latest in this long-running litigation that has attracted close attention in many circles throughout the country. APHIS initially granted non-regulated status to RR Alfalfa and supported its decision with an environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). After that decision was reversed in litigation, APHIS prepared a more detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) under NEPA and again deregulated RR Alfalfa. Plaintiffs challenged the new deregulation decision and EIS on the same grounds, alleging violations of NEPA, the Plant Protection Act (PPA), and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Ninth Circuit’s 31-page decision dismissed each of these claims and agreed with APHIS’ determinations. First, the Court found that the PPA requires analysis of only the “plant pest” risks identified by the statute and regulations, not a broader set of extrinsic concerns favored by plaintiffs. Second, the Court found that because RR Alfalfa is not a plant pest, APHIS had no jurisdiction to continue regulating the crop, and thus there remained no discretionary agency action to trigger consultation under the ESA. Finally, the Court upheld APHIS’ revised NEPA analysis, including APHIS’ rejection of “partial deregulation” alternatives after a finding of no plant pest risk.

This important decision has implications beyond RR Alfalfa. Special interest groups, including the plaintiffs in the RR Alfalfa litigation, have filed similar arguments in response to pending petitions for deregulation of other genetically engineered crops. APHIS and the industry can now draw confidence from the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in responding to such comments. Moreover, by refocusing the deregulation analysis on whether a new trait presents a “plant pest risk” as defined by statute and APHIS’ regulations, the Court’s decision has the potential to simplify and expedite agency decisions on genetically engineered crops going forward.

It is possible that the plaintiffs will seek to appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which previously heard aspects of the prior challenge to APHIS’ first RR Alfalfa deregulation decision. APHIS has also been considering proposed revisions to its rules governing deregulation and commercialization of genetically engineered crops. These issues continue to warrant careful monitoring.

© 2013 Beveridge & Diamond PC



China delays GMO corn and rice to woo the public

8 March 2013. Source: Reuters

BEIJING — China has delayed the introduction of genetically modified rice and corn as it tries to head off public fears, leading government scientists said on Thursday.

The world’s largest rice producer and consumer gave safety approvals to Bt rice and phytase corn in 2009, but has not yet begun commercial production, even though it has already spent billions of yuan on research.

“There are some debates … We have not given the public enough knowledge about GMO crops,” Peng Yufa, a member of the GM crop biosafety committee under the Ministry of Agriculture, told reporters.

“The crops have to be accepted by consumers who are willing to buy and by farmers who are willing to grow,” Peng said, adding that the process may take five years.

The public remains “very concerned” about the safety of GM crops, top agricultural official Chen Xiwen said on Thursday, but he added that it was inevitable that China would import GM crops in the future to meet the supply gap.

The large-scale introduction of GMO crops has been seen as a crucial part of China’s efforts to feed a fifth of the world’s population using less than a tenth of the world’s arable land.

But although senior officials have acknowledged the challenges of maintaining food security as the country urbanises, it remains unclear if the new government, to be elected during this session of parliament, will push for the large-scale production of GMO crops.

China is already the world’s biggest buyer of GMO soybeans and also the largest grower of GMO cotton.

Beijing-based Origin Agritech Ltd, which has exclusive rights to sell phytase corn, earlier has expected commercial production in 2013.


State’s farmers urge debate on GM

June 2, 2013. Source: The Examiner

TASMANIAN Farmers and Graziers Association chief Jan Davis says the government should consider changes to the state’s moratorium on genetically modified produce.

Ms Davis said Tasmania’s ban on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms to the Tasmanian environment, in place since 2001, divided opinion in the farming community.

“Some farmers think it should stay, some think it should go, and we think farmers should have the right to choose what they farm,” Ms Davis said.

“We were given a commitment that there would be an open and transparent policy consultation, but it appears Mr Green [Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green] has already made up his mind.”

Ms Davis said the government could consider separating animals and plants, and edible and non-edible plants.

“I don’t believe it’s all or nothing. The science has become more sophisticated and there’s a decent case to consider non-edible plants at least”.

A report commissioned by the government last year found that the current market advantage to be gained by promoting Tasmania’s GMO-free status was likely to be quite limited.

Mr Green has previously said he would “engage with the Parliament” on how to proceed, although Labor’s current policy is to extend the moratorium.

“It is an important subject for Tasmania and we want to take as many people with us on this as we can,” Mr Green said.

The Tasmanian government has maintained a policy banning a “commercial release of genetically modified organisms to the Tasmanian environment” since 2001, and most recently extended the moratorium in 2009.

The poppy industry is one of the groups campaigning for change, arguing a genetically modified product would make it easier to tailor to market demand.

Liberal primary industries spokesman Jeremy Rockliff said the opposition “would take part in the review, consult widely and listen to stakeholder views”.

A decision on a possible extension of the moratorium is expected before the state election, scheduled for March 2014.


31 May, 2013.


Information on GM glyphosate tolerant wheat found in the USA

What is the situation in the USA?

The United States of America (USA) has advised that genetically modified wheat plants have been detected on one farm in Oregon.

No genetically modified wheat varieties are approved for sale or commercial production in the USA, or in Australia.

The GM variety was the same as the glyphosate herbicide tolerant variety that Monsanto was authorised to field test in the USA from 1998 to 2005. The last field test in Oregon occurred in 2001.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assessed this variety of GM wheat in 2004 and determined that this variety is as safe for food and animal feed as non-GM wheat currently on the market.

The size and scale of the US detection is still being determined and it is too early to comment on what it means. The USA is working to find out how this happened and the extent of the situation.

More information is available from the US Department of Agriculture website

What is the situation in Australia?

Australia has a strong regulatory system to manage genetically modified plants and food:

  • the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) regulates work with genetically modified organisms
  • Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is responsible for food safety, including GM food
  • the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) is responsible for import and export certification
  • the States and Territories also play an important role.

GM wheat has not been authorised to be grown commercially in Australia by the Gene Technology Regulator and has not been approved for food use by FSANZ.

DAFF has advised that no imports of wheat have been permitted from the USA for processing or human consumption.

The OGTR provides strict oversight of genetically modified crop trials in Australia.

The Gene Technology Regulator has issued 14 licences for limited and controlled field trials of GM wheat, and 11 of these licences are still current. Each trial is limited in size and duration.

Trials are conducted under strict licence conditions based on comprehensive risk assessment and risk management plans and involving strict containment measures. Sites must be monitored during and after trials and any remaining material after harvest destroyed.

Wheat from these trials is prohibited from entering the human or animal food supplies.

There has been no breach of containment for any GM wheat trials.

The OGTR approval process is transparent and information about GM crop trials, including locations of the trial sites, is available on the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator website.

What happens next?

The OGTR is liaising with DAFF and FSANZ to monitor and assess the situation.

The Australian Government has been communicating with the US government on this issue (in Canberra and Washington) and will continue to monitor developments as updates become available.




WASHINGTON, May 29, 2013 –The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced today that test results of plant samples from an Oregon farm indicate the presence of genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat plants. Further testing by USDA laboratories indicates the presence of the same GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states from 1998 to 2005. APHIS launched a formal investigation after being notified by an Oregon State University scientist that initial tests of wheat samples from an Oregon farm indicated the possible presence of GE glyphosate-resistant wheat plants. There are no GE wheat varieties approved for sale or in commercial production in the United States or elsewhere at this time. 

The detection of this wheat variety does not pose a food safety concern.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed a voluntary consultation on the safety of food and feed derived from this GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety in 2004.  For the consultation, the developer provided information to FDA to support the safety of this wheat variety.

FDA completed the voluntary consultation with no further questions concerning the safety of grain and forage derived from this wheat, meaning that this variety is as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market.

“We are taking this situation very seriously and have launched a formal investigation,” said Michael Firko, Acting Deputy Administrator for APHIS’ Biotechnology Regulatory Services, “Our first priority is to as quickly as possible determine the circumstances and extent of the situation and how it happened. We are collaborating with state, industry, and trading partners on this situation and are committed to providing timely information about our findings.

USDA will put all necessary resources towards this investigation. ”

The Plant Protection Act (PPA) provides for substantial penalties for serious infractions. Should APHIS determine that this situation was the result of a violation of the PPA, APHIS has the authority to seek penalties for such a violation including civil penalties up to $1,000,000 and has the authority to refer the matter for criminal prosecution, if appropriate. 

APHIS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ FDA work together to regulate the safe use of organisms derived from modern biotechnology. APHIS regulates the introduction (meaning the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release/field testing) of certain GE organisms that may pose a risk to plant health. EPA regulates pesticides, including plants with plant-incorporated protectants (pesticides intended to be produced and used in a living plant), to ensure public safety. EPA also sets limits on pesticide residues on food and animal feed. FDA has primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of human food and animal feed, as well as safety of all plant-derived foods and feeds.

–       Questions and Answers

–       Information about USDA’s Regulation of Biotechnology

–       Information about FDA’s Regulation of Biotechnology

–       Video: USDA Investigating Detection of Genetically Engineered Glyphosate

–       Video: USDA Reassures Trading Partners of Food Safety of U.S. Wheat