Archive for 2014



TASMANIAN agriculture is set to remain free of genetically modified organisms for at least five more years, with the State Government opting to extend a longstanding GMO ban.

The Bill tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday has received qualified support from the state’s peak farming body, beekeepers and the Greens.

Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the Bill took into account the findings of last year’s review by the Department, which considered 160 public submissions and new market research.

“The review demonstrated that there is currently no imperative to change from having a moratorium,” he said.

“The Liberal Government believes that a five-year moratorium is a commonsense approach that strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of today and the possibilities of tomorrow.”

Mr Rockliff said the moratorium would be again reviewed prior to its expiry date in 2019.

In January the former state government announced the 13-year moratorium on GM food crops would be continued indefinitely.

While hailed by exporters of high-end products, the move was condemned by the TFGA and poppy growers who wanted the possibility of future access to GMOs.

TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said while the Liberals’ decision on a five-year moratorium was better than an indefinite ban, opinion was divided within the farming sector over the use of GMOs.

“Research commissioned by the previous government confirmed the fact that remaining GM-free comes at a cost to Tasmanian farmers,” she said.

“The government must recognise this impact on farmers’ overall returns.

“We need to be open to reassessment of the situation as new technologies and products are developed, and as markets change.”



6 August 2014. Source:

The U.K.’s Rothamsted Research is set to harvest a genetically modified oilseed in two to three weeks for use in fish farming.

The GM camelina oilseed will be the result of 15 years of research and about 2 million pounds ($3.4 million) of government support, Johnathan Napier, lead scientist on the project, said by phone from Hitchin, England, today. It’s the first U.K. field trial of a crop genetically modified for a consumer benefit, he said. This harvest will be in “kilos, not tons of seeds. Everything is experimental.”

The trial is in intended to show GM plants can replace fish oil derived from the sea. About 1 million metric tons of fish oil is taken from the sea every year, and 80 percent is used in fish farming, Napier said. “From our perspective, the easiest and most pressing need for this particular GM crop is fish farming because fish stocks are in decline and the global population is increasing.”

The camelina oilseed, a cousin of canola, will be used to produce fish oil for a salmon feeding trial at the Institute of Aquaculture on the campus of the University of Stirling, Scotland, Napier said. “We still have to do final analysis to find levels of oil in the seed. Everything looks promising.”


The West Australian, August 11, 2014. Source:

The State Government is moving rapidly to scrap laws that give WA the power to veto local farms growing genetically modified crops approved by Commonwealth authorities.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston signalled the death knell for the laws at the Liberal Party State conference at the weekend.

Mr Baston said Cabinet had agreed to a scheduled review of WA’s GM Crops Free Areas Act.

He indicated strongly that the laws would be repealed once the review was completed, as part of moves to cut “unnecessary” red tape in agriculture.

The Liberal Party’s rush to repeal the Act comes in the knowledge that if Labor gained power it would stop farmers planting GM canola.



A GREATER effort is needed from farmers to improve mainstream attitudes towards genetically modified (GM) crops, says Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia chairman and NSW Farmers guest speaker Ken Matthews.

He said GM crops had many benefits for consumers and the environment, as well as farmers.

“I’m a believer in agricultural biotechnology, I think it’s just so important for our future that it’s time people took a position on bio technology,” Mr Matthews said.

He started by explaining what he said were two truths.

“I think biotechnology is absolutely critical factor for the success of farming in Australia and is the single most important single issue over the next couple of decades.

“(And) it’s certainly a pretty good opportunity to lift productivity.”

GM’s growth has been rapid, with 98 per cent of sugar wet grown in the US being GM just three years after the technology being released in that market.

Likewise, in Australia GM cotton, which has been available since 1996, makes up 99pc of our production.

“Or if you look at the canola figures in the four years from 2008 to 2012 farm income benefits of $27 million (have been realised) for Australian growers,” Mr Matthews said.

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council was set up in 2012 as an industry initiative which aims to improve understanding of the potential benefits of agricultural biotechnology and ensure that farmers, if they wish, can access these technologies.

“We aren’t I in the business of advocacy, but we are in the business of developing and providing factual evidence and data that might assist that debate,” he said.

Examples he used to demonstrate what biotechnology was already doing for agriculture included rapid grow salmon, water efficient wheat, pesticide reduction, fire blight resistant apples weren’t off the market, and rust resistance cereals were also “very close to the end of the pipeline”.

He also referred to consumer benefits, which he said “is something we should be doing more about”.

These included the removal of saturated fats from food, removal of allergens, increased dietary fibre, increased vitamin availability and even non-browning apples.

Mr Matthews was keen to see greater public support from farmers for GM crops because it potentially reduced farm input costs, faster, more accurate diagnostic tests, improvements to quality and consistency and also improvement of novel features such as colour and taste.

“All of these things are becoming available right now.”

However, environmental benefits were the biggest factor he felt could help improve the understanding and acceptance of GM crops.

“If the community can see benefits for them as well as for producers then they will be inclined to be more supportive,” he said.

This included feral pest control, weed management, environment clean up and biodegradable packaging.

A concern often raised was who benefits financially from this technology?

“Isn’t it just the big end of town, well that’s true. It is a very profitable, and I think it will become an even more profitable business into the future. Even the technology start-ups have to align themselves with some of the big end of town to get their products registered,” he said.

“But also there are benefits for producers… To consumers and public benefits and environment benefits.”

Mr Matthews explained that part of this education was also helping people to understand that Australia’s regulatory systems are among the best in the world.

“I think we have to… acknowledge risks and use science and good governance to manage those risks and our regulatory system is looked on by others as being a very good example of doing that.”

“The thing that really want to leave with you is that we really need farmers to stand up about this.”

The first step was to change public, consumer, environmental and media attitudes.

“I think we need to be very respectful of differences of opinion about this,” he said.

“We need to challenge those attitudes by reasoned argument, by persuasion, by producing evidence and not by shouting.”

The four steps he believes need to be done are:

1. It’s incumbent on those people who see the potential in biotechnology to build understanding of its benefits;

2. Confidence also needs building in the regulatory regime in Australia

3. Trust needs building around biotechnology

4. Ethical concerns need to be respected.

He also said the regulatory process could be simplified and moratoriums in some States needed reviewing because “they’ve not been put in place for reasons of conscience”.

“We have an instant regulatory systems that can deal with the safety and risk misuses perfectly well without a moratorium.”


17 June 2014. Source: – ixzz353CpMsa4

Despite ongoing controversy about the safety of GMO foods, human trials are about to begin on a GM banana that has the potential to drastically reduce infant morality and malnutrition in Africa, reports the Independent.

The GMO banana, which was developed by Australian scientists and backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a vitamin A-enriched version of a common East African cooking banana. Vitamin A deficiency is estimated to kill up to 700,000 children annually and causes about 300,000 cases of blindness globally each year, so the enriched banana has the potential to significantly impact public health for the better. This is especially the case in Africa, where as many as 70 percent of the population in some countries rely on cooked banana for the bulk of their nutrition.

Researchers are optimistic that human trials will be successful and that their genetically enhanced banana will go into commercial production in Uganda by 2020.

“Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food… We know our science will work,” said professor James Dale, who is leading the nine-year banana project at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane…


16 June 2014. Source:

Australian growers are switching to Roundup Ready canola at the fastest rate yet purchasing a record 855 tonnes of seed this season.

Sales surged across the country demonstrating grower confidence in the value of Roundup Ready canola in all growing regions. More than 2,700 tonnes of Roundup Ready canola seed have been purchased since its introduction in 2009.

New high performing varieties, diminishing premiums for non-GM canola and growing market acceptance led to sales of 639 tonnes in WA sales (up 53%). Sales growth was even stronger on the east coast with growers in Victoria purchasing 91 tonnes (up 72%) and 125 tonnes (up 59%) in New South Wales.

The 55% increase in sales this season will lead to a big jump in market share as the overall area planted to canola is expected to be only slightly larger than last year.

Monsanto Australia Managing Director, Daniel Kruithoff, said that Roundup Ready canola is now a mainstream agricultural tool for growers across the country…


18 June 2014. Source:

A Western Australian organic farmer will appeal a Supreme Court decision in a landmark GM contamination case.

Kojonup farmer Steve Marsh launched legal action against his neighbour Michael Baxter after claiming GM canola blew from his crop onto Mr Marsh’s land in 2010.

Mr Marsh claims the contamination caused him to lose his organic certification on more than half his property for almost three years.

He sought $85,000 in damages, but the claim was thrown out last month after a three-week trial, with Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Martin ruling in Mr Baxter’s favour.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Mark Walters, who is representing Mr Marsh in the action, said a notice of appeal had been filed in the Court of Appeal.

Mr Marsh said after a lot of consideration, he and his wife Sue had decided to exercise their right to appeal.

Mr Baxter told the ABC he was aware of the appeal.

He said he was surprised because he thought the judge was very clear in his decision…


Source: Grain Producers SA, Media release – Releases/140606 Media Release – Australia GM Wheat Trilateral Statement.pdf

Australian Growers Reinforce Commitment to GM Wheat

On the five year anniversary of the inaugural GM Wheat Trilateral Statement, Australian grain growers have today launched a renewed commitment to GM wheat, joining with global partners, to launch the 2014 GM Wheat Trilateral Statement.

Fifteen organisations in Australia, Canada and the United States of America, representing producers and millers, have come together publicly to confirm their support for genetically modified (GM) wheat research and development, innovation and science-based decision making.

To date, no GM wheat has been commercialised in the world, however, significant research is underway in Australia and around the world to improve wheat varieties.

Australian research includes work to improve the nutrient efficiency and yield of wheat. In addition to producing varieties better able to survive in dry conditions and modifying starch levels for improved human health outcomes, such as bowel health.

Wheat represents about 20 per cent of human calorie intake, making it an essential part of the global diet and critical to food security. Advanced breeding, including gene technology, will help ensure the continued availability of wheat, particularly improved end products, more sustainable production and environmental benefits.

Genetically modified crops are now 18 years old. In 2013, 175 million hectares of GM crops were planted in 27 countries, including the European Union, by 18 million farmers. Australian farmers are looking forward to GM wheat R&D investments reaching the marketplace.

Australian signatories note their ongoing commitment to work with the grain supply chain to deliver choice, including the supply of non-GM wheat, within reasonable tolerances, to markets that require it.


Source: ABC News,

A farmer accused of contaminating his neighbour’s crops with genetically modified canola has won a landmark case in the West Australian Supreme Court.

The decision could have wide-reaching implications for the production of genetically modified crops in Australia.

Michael Baxter was being sued by his neighbour, Steve Marsh, an organic certified farmer who alleged his farm in the Great Southern region was contaminated by GM material blown onto his property from Mr Baxter’s land.

Mr Marsh claimed the contamination caused him to lose his organic certification on more than half his Kojonup property for almost three years.

But Justice Kenneth Martin said Mr Baxter could not be held responsible just for growing a GM crop in a conventional way.

“The end of season winds and the blowing of swathes from Sevenoaks eastwards into Eagle Rest had not been an outcome intended by Mr Baxter,” he said in his judgment summary.

“Even so, no physical injury whatsoever had been sustained at Eagle Rest in consequence.

“Mr Baxter was not to be held responsible as a broadacre farmer merely for growing a lawful GM crop and choosing to adopt a harvest methodology (swathing) which was entirely orthodox in its implementation.”

“No basis in principle was shown to extend the law to these events,” he said.

“Furthermore, Mr Baxter had not been shown to have acted negligently, either by growing or then by swathing the lawfully grown GM crop in 2010.”

Mr Baxter was surrounded by anti-GM protesters as he left court.

He said the decision gave other farmers in Western Australia more certainty.

“It’s a proven product. There’s nothing dangerous about it,” he said.

“It’s perfectly safe, it’s legalised and I think it’s a great thing of the future.”

Despite his victory, Mr Baxter said the court action had taken a heavy toll.

“My marriage was destroyed over it, so hope the next-door neighbour is happy about that,” he said.

Mr Marsh was visibly emotional as he left court and expressed his disappointment in the decision.

“After three-and-a-half years of this it’s been pretty challenging,” he said.

“Obviously we’re disappointed in the judgment given the impacts on our lives.”

He said he needed time to consider the judgment before deciding whether to appeal.

“It’s an issue of choice, isn’t it? Simple as that,” he said.

“There is a lot of implications for agriculture in this decision.”

Farming group welcomes court finding

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association’s John Snooke said the decision gave certainty to the mainstream agricultural industry.

“Farmers are continuing to adopt modern technologies and this allows them to do that at the pace they choose,” he said.




Media release. Source: PG Economics,

Crop biotechnology continues to provide major environmental benefits and allow farmers to grow more, using fewer resources. A majority of these benefits are in developing countries.

‘In the 17th year of widespread adoption, crops developed through genetic modification delivered more environmentally friendly farming practices while providing clear improvements to farmer productivity and income’ said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the repor

‘Half of the farm income gains and the majority of the environmental gains associated with changes in pesticide use and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions occurred in developing countries.’

A few highlights from this comprehensive review are [summarised below]:

  • Crop biotechnology has contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This results from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with GM crops;
  • Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2012) by 503 million kg (-8.8%). This is equal to the total amount of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the EU 27 for nearly two crop years;
  • The insect resistant (IR) technology used in cotton and corn has consistently delivered yield gains from reduced pest damage;
  • The herbicide tolerant (HT) technology used in soybeans and canola has also contributed to increased production in some countries;
  • Between 1996 and 2012, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 122 million tonnes of soybeans and 231 million tonnes of corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 18.2 million tonnes of cotton lint and 6.6 million tonnes of canola;
  • GM crops are allowing farmers to grow more without using additional land;
  • The highest yield gains were obtained by farmers in developing countries, many of which are resource-poor and farm small plots of land;
  • The total farm income gain of $116.6 billion was divided equally between farmers in developing and developed countries.


1 May 2014. Source:

 Australian organic standards make GM and organic coexistence difficult: scholar

Coexistence between organic farmers and those that grow genetically modified crops is a big challenge but it is possible in Australia.

That’s according to Nuffield Scholar and Western Australian farmer from Wongan Hills. Jemma Salder.

Supported by the GRDC, Ms Salder recently travelled to a number of countries looking at how the industries worked with each other.

While she says the two can coexist, she suggests the strict zero tolerance standard for the presence of GM material in Australian organic produce may need to be relaxed if the organic industry is to survive.

“I travelled to the US and Canada and it’s dominated by GM crops, but over there the organic farmers are qualified on a process based system, so the presence of GM itself in the end organic product will not affect the status of the organic operation,” she says.

In England she says organic producers had 0.9 per cent tolerance for GM material.

“In Australia organic producers have to adhere to a zero per cent tolerance to the presence of GM at any stage of the production process, it really makes it a difficult tolerance to stick to, zero per cent tolerance in life is almost impossible, especially in agriculture.

“That really places, I think, the organic producers in a difficult position.

“It’s easy to say from the outside looking in, I’m not an organic producer, but I think that a zero per cent tolerance in agriculture is just not sustainable.

“We’ve all got to be flexible, it’s up to them what decisions they make but I think they’ll be perhaps putting their industry at jeopardy if they don’t have a serious look at it.”

She says GM and organic growers in the countries she visited seemed to have a more harmonious relationship than their counterparts in Australia.

“It’s really important that we can make the best business decisions for our properties, but not affect our neighbours as much as we can,” she says.


March 2014. Source:

Researchers from ETH Zurich and the Julius Kühn Institute in Germany have created the first fire-blight-resistant apple. With the aid of so-called cis-genetic engineering, they transfered a resistance gene from a wild apple into the genome of a Gala apple. Tests in the greenhouse indicate that the gene is effective in protecting the tree against the disease.

Fruit farmers dread fire blight. The infection keeps flaring up again and causes considerable damage to apple plantations. In 2007, when the last major epidemic hit Switzerland, the damage the country suffered cost CHF 50 million and 250,000 trees had to be destroyed. Farmers primarily use sprays containing the antibiotic streptomycin against the pathogen, the bacterium Erwinia amylovora – a controversial method to save fruit trees and harvests.

A team of researchers headed by ETH-Zurich plant pathologist Cesar Gessler and from the Julius Kühne Institute in Germany report a genetically modified apple of the popular Gala variety in the latest issue of Plant Biotechnology Journal that is resistant to fire blight. In an earlier issue of this journal, the researchers presented an apple tree of the same variety that can ward off scab, a common fungal disease, thanks to the insertion of a scab resistance gene of a wild apple.

The researchers succeeded in identifying and isolating the gene for fire-blight resistance in a wild apple for the first time and confirming its function as a resistance-mediating gene…

Gessler and his collaborators were using so-called cis-genetic engineering. Additional genes are incorporated into cis-gene organisms using the biotechnological methods available. However, these are not foreign to the species, as in the case of so-called transgenic organisms. Instead, the apple only receives genes from another variety of apple.

The researchers tested the fire blight resistance properties of the cis-gene apple trees in the greenhouse at the Agroscope research facility in Wädenswil and in Germany by infecting them with fire blight. The results revealed that the resistance gene took effect and prevented the trees from becoming infected.

Although Gessler has now been able to reap the fruits of his years of research and development work, he does not believe that fruit farmers will ever grow these cis-gene apples. On the one hand, there is a still a moratorium on genetic engineering in Switzerland, banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMO), which also affects cis-gene crops. “Moreover, there is still too much opposition to GMO in Switzerland,” he says. And, unlike in the USA, here in this country and the EU we don’t assess individual products for approval, but rather the technology used while growing them. “Unless the attitudes and legislation change, the cis-gene Gala apple will never be grown,” the plant pathologist sums up.


24 March 2014. Source:

Members of a European Parliament committee on Wednesday (19 March) endorsed draft rules that define pollen as a natural constituent of honey and not an ingredient. GM pollen will only be labelled if it makes up more than 0.9 per cent of the honey.

The Committee report by British MEP Julie Girling from the European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) group was adopted with 28 votes in favor to 25 against, with two abstentions, in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). The new rules have already informally been agreed with the Council of Ministers.

“The ingredient/constituent argument has arisen due to the labelling implications of each option. If pollen continues to be considered a ‘constituent’, any GM pollen present would not need to be labelled. This is because, according to the GM regulation, only GM content above 0.9 per cent needs to be labelled. Since pollen only forms around 0.5 per cent of any batch of honey, it would never exceed the labelling threshold,” Girling said in a statement.

Current legislation does not state explicitly whether pollen in honey is, or is not, an ingredient. The Court of Justice sought to clarify this in a ruling in September 2011 which defined pollen as an “ingredient” of honey, thereby requiring producers to indicate “pollen” in a list of ingredients on the label of the product. However, in the rules proposed by the Commission, which have now been backed by the Parliament, pollen is defined as a constituent of honey, not an ingredient.

…The text will be voted on in the Strasbourg plenary between 14-17 April.


27 March 2014. Source:

A herd of 60 genetically engineered cows in northwestern Iowa could help unlock the key to producing new medicines that could treat human diseases, even cancer.

The Jersey-Holstein cloned crosses, which project director Dr. Eddie Sullivan of Sanford Research Applied Biosciences in Sioux Falls said somewhat in jest receive the “best medical care anywhere,” have been genetically engineered to produce human antibodies that fight diseases.

The project is far enough along that his staff of 19, including an animal care and veterinary contingent of six people who take care of the cows at a farm between Hull and Sioux Center, Iowa, is “very excited” about possibly starting human clinical trials in the first part of next year.

Sullivan will be making a major presentation this month before the Federal Drug Administration and must gain its approval before the human trials can begin.

The project – started at the University of Massachusetts in 1998 – took almost 12 years of genetic engineering for the cows to produce the human antibodies.

What the researchers did, said Sullivan, is engineer the cows to turn off the cow antibody genes and then introduce a little piece of DNA that produces the human version of antibodies.

“We basically reprogrammed the software inside the cows where they look at the human antibody and they think it’s theirs and they don’t reject it,” he said.

The human antibodies also protect the cows from animal diseases.

The key to helping unlock new treatments for humans, however, is that these cows can be hyper-vaccinated against all sorts of human diseases – the flu, for example.

The cows then become “antibody factories” and can donate plasma with the disease-fighting antibodies two or three times a month.


31 March 2014. Source:

Genetically modified technology has the potential to make grapes cheaper to produce and enhance Australian wine production.

But the Australian wine sector doesn’t support the use of GM in its industry.

Australian Wine Research Institute managing director Dan Johnson says GM is used in research, but the industry’s not ready for commercialisation.

“In the main, there is still widespread concern about what use of GM, for example, might do to export markets and what it might do to the perception of the overall Australian wine category.

“As a result, the wine category doesn’t look at that very seriously.”

Mr Johnson says the Australian industry is happy for other countries and industries to lead the way in this field.

“There are other agricultural crops and indeed possibly wine industries elsewhere in the world that might seek to take a lead in the practical implementation of that, if we get to the point where other agricultural crops, like wheat, can establish a long track record of safety.

“Wine is by comparison a luxury product, and it’s subject to a different set of principles and thinking, so we would look to take a back seat and allow other industries to take the lead.”