Archive for March, 2014


Source: Farm Weekly,

THE biggest farming group in the US has backed moves to promote coexistence between organic and biotech farmers.

American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman dismissed suggestions of widespread legal disputes between the two farming groups as “merely the product of an activist agenda”.

With a landmark legal argument over property rights hanging in the balance between an organic farmer and genetically modified (GM) canola grower in Western Australia, Mr Stallman said earlier this month the Farm Bureau’s members supported the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision on an “important” recommendation on biotechnology.

The USDA’s recommendation was contained in a report from the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) which aims to foster communication and collaboration to strengthen coexistence among farmers.

“We are disappointed by the implication from activist groups opposed to modern farming practices that there is widespread disagreement when it comes to coexistence and agricultural biotechnology,” Mr Stallman said.

“Frankly, that assertion does not hold up to scrutiny.”

Following dissent and division over GM crops continuing in Australia, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) hit back, using the recent annual ‘Science Meets Parliament’ week in Canberra to launch a new publication designed to deliver science-based information on GM crops, “to contribute to a more informed national discussion about agricultural technologies”.

ABCA says the publication, The Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops, provides a comprehensive overview of agricultural biotechnology in Australia and answers common questions about GM crops.

“The guide also presents information on coexistence in farming and the on-farm management practices and systems currently in place that maintain the integrity of both GM and non-GM crops,” ABCA said.


13 March 2014. Source:

FAO survey shows 25 countries blocked imports after finding traces of GMOs.

The increased production of genetically modified crops around the globe has led to a higher number of incidents of low levels of GMOs being detected in traded food and feed, FAO said today.

The incidents have led to trade disruptions between countries with shipments of grain, cereal and other crops being blocked by importing countries and destroyed or returned to the country of origin.

The trace amounts of GM crops become mixed with non-GM food and feed crops by accident during field production (for example, a field trial of a GM crop grown near a field of a non-GM crop), processing, packing, storage and transportation.

There is no international agreement defining or quantifying “low level”, therefore the interpretation varies from country to country. In many countries it is interpreted as any level at which detection is possible i.e. very low trace levels while in other countries case-by-case decisions are taken on what level is acceptable.

The GM crop in question may be authorized for commercial use or sale in one or more countries but not yet authorized in an importing country. Therefore, if the importing country detects the unauthorized crop, it may be legally obliged to reject the shipment.

In the first survey of its kind, 75 out of 193 FAO member countries responded to questions on low levels of GM crops in international food and animal feed trade. The survey results will be discussed at a technical consultation organized by FAO to be held in Rome on 20 and 21 March to review the extent and pattern of trade disruptions caused by the contaminated shipments. The meeting will discuss trade issues related to low levels of GM crops, but will not debate pros and cons of GM crops.

The survey reveals:

  • respondents reported 198 incidents of low levels of GM crops mixed into non-GM crops between 2002 and 2012;
  • there was a jump in cases between 2009 and 2012, when 138 out of the 198 incidents were reported;
  • shipments with low levels of GM crops originated mainly from the US, Canada and China, although other countries also accidently shipped such crops;
  • once detected, most shipments were destroyed or returned to the exporting country;
  • the highest number of incidents involved linseed, rice, maize and papaya.

“The numbers of incidents are small relative to the millions of tonnes of food and feed traded every day,” said Renata Clarke, FAO Senior Food Safety Officer in charge of the survey.

“But because trade disruptions may be very costly and given the reported increase in the occurrence of these disruptions, FAO conducted this survey and is holding a technical consultation to try to start a dialogue between countries on the issue.”



February 2014

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Summary: Genetically engineered (GE) crops (mainly corn, cotton, and soybeans) were planted on 169 million acres in 2013, about half of U.S. land used for crops. Their adoption has saved farmers time, reduced insecticide use, and enabled the use of less toxic herbicides. Research and development of new GE varieties continues to expand farmer choices.


March 2014. Source:

More than 1300 grower surveys were conducted to inform the GM Canola Impact Survey. The survey examined adoption patterns; agronomic, economic and environmental impacts; and changes in attitude to the concerns regarding co-existence of GM and non-GM canola production systems.

Key Findings 

  • When compared to Triazine Tolerant (TT) canola, growers utilising GM Canola achieved more effective weed control, reduced overall pesticide use and improved farming practices (such as enhanced conservation tillage), lower risk of herbicide resistance developing and a lower environmental foot print.
  • Effective weed control, in particular control of priority weeds such as herbicide tolerant annual ryegrass and wild radish were primary reasons why growers planted GM canola.
  • There was an increasing trend in the level of concern expressed by both GM and non GM canola growers in relation to the development of glyphosate herbicide resistance. In response GM canola growers adopted alternate weed control practices, including the adoption of an alternate knockdown herbicide (paraquat/diquat) and the use of the ‘double knock’ technique prior to planting GM canola.
  • Over the three year survey, there was no significant difference in canola yields reported between GM and non GM canola.
  • Overall GM canola growers were more likely to use conservation tillage practices than non GMcanola growers.
  • On average the cost of weed control using GM herbicide tolerant canola was higher than that of alternate non GM canola weed management programs.
  • The economic impacts of GM canola were variable due to the initial lack of access to GM canola varieties adapted to the major canola growing regions, the cost of access to the GM technology and grain marketing/ logistic issues.
  • Concerns relating to co-existence failed to materialize with the majority of GM canola and non GM canola growers reporting no impacts on their farming operations. The issue of coexistence has not influenced farmers’ choice in opting to grow GM canola or whether to increase the area of GM canola grown.
  • GM and non GM growers participating in the survey indicated that they would increase their adoption of GM canola in the future.
  • The major barrier to adoption of GM canola is the perceived lack of economic value derived from the Roundup Ready® canola technology package (i.e. the cost of access + the cost of weed control + yield + farm gate grain price + logistics costs) when compared to the established economic value of the alternate non GM weed control management system options.


The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) launched The Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops today in Canberra at the 14th Annual Science Meets Parliament.

The ABCA has developed the Guide to provide factual, science-based information to contribute to a more informed national discussion about agricultural technologies.

With a rapidly growing world population, a changing climate and growing pressure on natural resources such as water and arable land, agricultural biotechnology is increasingly seen as an important part of the solution to some of the world’s biggest challenges.

In 2013, more than 18 million farmers in 27 countries planted GM crops across 175 million hectares. Since their commercialisation 18 years ago, GM crops have been planted across an accumulated 1.6 billion hectares. Despite this widespread and rapid uptake, the technology continues to stimulate considerable community debate.

ABCA’s vision is that the Australian farming sector can, within a world class regulatory regime, access and adopt this technology to improve food security and deliver a competitive farming sector and sustainable environment. Credible, balanced information will help to deliver these outcomes by encouraging informed debate and soundly based decision-making.

The Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops provides a comprehensive overview of agricultural biotechnology in Australia and answers common questions about GM crops.

Importantly, the Guide also presents information on coexistence in farming and the on-farm management practices and systems currently in place that maintain the integrity of both GM and non-GM crops.

Download a copy here.


2 March 2014. Source: Farm Weekly

THE COTTON industry is set to take the fight against heliothis pests to a new level in the 2015-16 season when the three-gene, insect-resistant Bollgard III lines of cotton are due for commercial release.

Bollgard III will take over from the highly successful, two-gene Bollgard II.

The introduction of genetically-modified, insect-resistant cottons – which started with Ingard in 1996 and Bollgard II in 2004 – is credited with reducing insecticide application rates in the industry by 80 percent.

Monsanto technical development team lead Tony May said the aim of taking the next step of introducing Bollgard III was to make sure the Bt technology would remain an effective tool for controlling heliothis well into the future.



3 March 2014. Source: Horticulture Australia Limited

Biotechnology research being undertaken by Queensland University of Technology through HAL’s transformational R&D program has the potential to help the horticulture industry overcome common pest and disease issues facing vegetatively propagated crops, while helping to shift the public perception of genetically modified foods.

The research will focus on cisgenics and RNAi technologies leading to the development of marker-free genetic transformations systems in vegetatively propagated crops, which essentially means modifying the plant using genes from its own species. This method differs from traditional genetic modification which involves adding outside genetic material -often derived from bacteria – as markers into the plant DNA.

Initially, the target crops will be bananas and potatoes as they are among the top 10 crops in the world; however the platform technologies will have potential to be shared in other crops across the horticulture industry.

“Vegetative propagation, which is the process of producing a new sprout or plant by using a cutting from the parent plant, produces new plants which are essentially clones of the previous generation,” explained Professor James Dale, project leader and Director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities at the Queensland University of Technology.

“Being a clone, it’s impossible to make any genetic improvements along the way to help the plant cope with some of the common issues facing the wider industry such as the challenge of maximising nutrient uptake or helping to manage common pests and diseases with minimal pesticides and fungicides.

“This research will allow us to take an accepted variety of banana for example and correct the common problem such as disease while retaining the original variety.”

The researchers are quietly confident that the method will help shift negative public perceptions of genetically modified foods due to the fact that no outside genetic material is being introduced into the plant using the methods proposed.

Research will also be conducted into discovering techniques to provide stability of introduced genes across generations. This will ensure that the genetic improvements made to the original variety are carried on to the next generation.

“This has previously been a challenge due to what’s known as ‘gene silencing’ which is where other genes in the original DNA prevent the new and desired trait from being expressed in later generations,” Professor Dale explained.

Alok Kumar, Breeding and Biotechnology Portfolio Manager at HAL added, “This project aims to build capacity for the horticulture industry to be ready for future challenges. The outcomes of this project can only be realised in a long term, up to 2025, as a number of complex issues are targeted. However the potential to shift the industry as we know it makes it a truly transformational project.”