Archive for February, 2014



Ken Matthews AO welcomed as new Chairman of ABCA

The Board of Directors of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) formally welcomed Mr Ken Matthews AO as its new Chairman at its meeting today in Canberra.

Mr Matthews brings to this important role the intellect, leadership and expertise needed to ensure that the Council continues to provide scientific and balanced information to assist the public to understand the current and potential benefits of agricultural biotechnology for the nation’s farming sector.

Mr Matthews joins a strong team of biotechnology and industry leaders on the Board and supported by ABCA’s Patrons, The Hon John Anderson AO and Professor Adrienne Clarke AC.

A former Secretary of two Australian government departments (agriculture and transport), Mr Matthews has had a lengthy and distinguished career at the top of Australian public administration.

Mr Matthews brings to the role of Chairman of ABCA a wealth of experience in industry, technology and agricultural policy as well as policy on matters that affect regional Australia. His time at the helm of the Department of Agriculture also saw the development of the regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology.

ABCA’s aim to encourage informed debate on biotechnology through the dissemination of credible, balanced, science-based information will greatly benefit from Mr Matthews’ extensive experience.

In 2005, Mr Matthews was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia. He is also an elected fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE) and of the Institute of Public Administration, Australia and the Australian Institute of Management.

The ABCA Board of Directors also thanked and acknowledged outgoing Chairman, Mr Claude Gauchat, who was the Council’s inaugural Chairman and played a crucial role in the establishment of this important organisation of the nation’s agricultural and biotechnology sectors.




14 February 2014. Source:

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) today released their annual GM crop area statistics which indicates more than 18 million farmers in 27 countries planted GM crops in 2013 across 175.2 million hectares, a three per cent increase from 2012.

Key points from the ISAAA brief include:

  • More than half the world’s population, 60 per cent or approximately four billion people, live in the 27 countries planting GM crops.
  • For the second consecutive year developing countries planted more GM crops (54 per cent of the global area) than industrial countries.
  • The five dominant GM crop-growing countries were the USA (70 million hectares or 40 per cent of the global total), Brazil (40 million), Argentina (24 million), India (11 million) and Canada (11 million).
  • Brazil, continues to be the engine of GM crop growth globally, increasing its hectarage more than any other country in the world – a record 3.7 million hectare increase, equivalent to an impressive year-over-year increase of 10 per cent. In 2013, Brazil commercially planted its first stacked soybean with insect resistance and herbicide tolerance on 2.2 million hectares, and EMBRAPA, Brazil’s agricultural R&D organization, has gained approval to commercialise its home-grown GM virus resistant bean, planned for 2015.
  • Africa continued to make progress with Burkina Faso and Sudan increasing their Bt cotton hectarage substantially. Encouragingly an additional seven African countries (Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda) have conducted field trials on a broad range (cotton and maize to bananas and cowpeas) of “new” GM crops, including several orphan crops such as sweet potato.
  • Five EU countries planted a record 148,013 hectares of Gm insect resistant maize, up 15 per cent from 2012. Spain was by far the largest adopter followed by Portugal, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
  • Stacked traits (GM crops with more than one modification, for example herbicide tolerance and insect resistance) occupied 27 per cent of the global 175 million hectares.
  • The four dominant GM crops remain soybean, corn, cotton and canola, with sugar beet, lucerne, papaya, squash in the USA and papaya, poplar, tomato and sweet pepper in China representing a small component of the overall GM hectarage.
  • 2013 marked the first-ever commercial plantings of drought-tolerant GM maize in the USA.
  • Bangladesh approved a GM crop (Bt eggplant) for planting for the first time in 2013, and two other developing countries, Panama and Indonesia, also approved cultivation of GM crops in 2013 for commercialisation in 2014.

According to ISAAA, “The most compelling and credible testimony to biotech [GM] crops is that during the 18 year period 1996 to 2013, millions of farmers in ~30 countries worldwide, elected to make more than 100 million independent decisions to plant and replant an accumulated hectarage of more than 1.6 billion hectares. This is an area equivalent to >150 per cent the size of the total land mass of the US or China which is an enormous area. There is one principal and overwhelming reason that underpins the trust and confidence of risk-averse farmers in biotechnology – biotech crops deliver substantial, and sustainable, socio-economic and environmental benefits.”

Future predictions by ISAAA

In 2013, as expected, growth continued to plateau for the principal GM crops in industrial countries and in mature GM crop markets in developing countries where adoption rates are sustained at an optimal rate of approximately 90 per cent.

In the scientific community associated with biotechnology, there is cautious optimism that GM crops, including both staple and orphan crops, will be increasingly adopted by society, particularly by the developing countries, where the task of feeding its own people is formidable.

Over 35 million hectares of conventional maize is grown annually in China to feed its 500 million pigs (approximately 50 per cent of the global swine herd) and 13 billion chickens, ducks and other poultry which need feed. A GM phytase maize, which confers increased phosphate uptake in animals is reported to increase the efficiency of meat production – was approved for biosafety in China on 27 November 2009 and is expected to be deployed in the near future. Other maize producing countries in Asia, including Indonesia and Vietnam, have field tested herbicide tolerant/insect resistant maize and are likely to commercialise in the near-term, possibly by 2015.

Subject to regulation, another very important product for Asia is Golden Rice which should be ready for release to farmers by 2016 in the Philippines. Bangladesh has also assigned high priority to the product.

In the Americas the increased adoption of GM drought tolerant maize and transfer of this technology to selected countries in Africa will be important, as well as the adoption of the virus resistant bean developed in Brazil and scheduled for deployment in 2015. The stacked soybean launched in 2013 is expected to reach high adoption rates in Brazil and some neighbouring countries in the near-term.

In Africa there are three countries, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan already successfully commercialising GM crops and the hope is that several of the seven additional countries currently field-testing GM crops will graduate to commercialisation. The early predominant products that will likely feature are the well-tested GM cotton and maize, and subject to regulatory approval, the very important drought tolerant maize scheduled for 2017. Hopefully, one of several orphan crops such as the insect resistant cowpea will also be made available in the near-term so that farmers can benefit from them as early as possible.