Archive for May, 2017


02 May 2017. Source: Media Release Australian Academy of Sciences

‘Evolution-bending’ gene editing technology—do the potential benefits outweigh the risks?

The Academy has released a discussion paper on new gene-editing technologies that override natural selection.

‘Gene drive’ technology allows scientists to manipulate the DNA of small plants or animals in a way that forces or ‘drives’ inheritance of particular genetic traits and characteristics to successive generations. The technology could wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitos, cane toads or other pests and plant diseases within years, but like any new technology, has potential risks.

Before gene drives are used in Australia, and before they start being used at scale elsewhere in the world, it’s important to consider the applications that are of most benefit and the risks associated with those applications. Once gene drives are released into wild populations in other countries, they will inevitably reach Australia.

This discussion paper will stimulate Australian governments and communities to consider the issues now.


Source: ISAAA Brief 52-2016: Press Release

Biotech/GM Crops Surge to a New Peak of 185.1 Million Hectares in 2016
Global Area Rebounds from 2015 as Farmers Continue to Adopt Biotech Crops

Beijing (May 4, 2017) – Today, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) released its annual report showcasing the 110-fold increase in adoption rate of biotech crops globally in just 21 years of commercialization – growing from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares in 2016. ISAAA’s report, “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016,” continues to demonstrate the long-standing benefits of biotech crops for farmers in developing and industrialized countries, as well as consumer benefits of recently approved and commercialized varieties.

“Biotech crops have become a vital agricultural resource for farmers around the world because of the immense benefits for improved productivity and profitability, as well as conservation efforts,” said ISAAA Chair of the Board, Paul S. Teng. “With the commercial approvals and plantings of new varieties of biotech potatoes and apples, consumers will begin to enjoy direct benefits of biotechnology with produce that is not likely to spoil or be damaged, which in turn has the potential to substantially reduce food waste and consumer grocery costs.”

Examining other benefits of biotechnology, ISAAA reports that the adoption of biotech crops has reduced CO2 emissions equal to removing approximately 12 million cars from the road annually in recent years; conserved biodiversity by removing 19.4 million hectares of land from agriculture in 2015; and decreased the environmental impact with a 19% reduction in herbicide and insecticide use.1 Additionally, in developing countries, planting biotech crops has helped alleviate hunger by increasing the incomes for 18 million small farmers and their families, bringing improved financial stability to more than 65 million people.


28 March 2017. Source: Productivity Commission

This report was sent to Government on 15 November 2016 and publicly released on 28 March 2017.

The report is about regulation that affects farm businesses.

Key points:

  • Farm businesses are subject to a vast and complex array of regulations…The number and complexity of regulations affecting farm  businesses means that the cumulative burden of regulation on farmers is substantial.
  • The need for regulation is not disputed by farm businesses… Rather, Australian farmers want ‘better’ (or less burdensome) regulation.
  • Some regulations lack a sound policy justification and should be removed. Examples include restrictions on the use of land held under pastoral lease arrangements, state bans on cultivating genetically modified crops, barriers to entry for foreign shipping providers, mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods…
  • In other cases, regulation is the wrong policy tool. Regulatory changes to address community concerns about foreign investment in agriculture, for example, are costly and  likely to be ineffective. A better informed conversation about foreign investment is needed.
  • Other regulations and regulatory systems need to be reformed so they can more fully achieve their objectives…
  • Inconsistent regulatory requirements across and within jurisdictions make it difficult for farmers to understand their obligations and add to the cost of doing business…
  • Governments could also reduce the regulatory burden on farm businesses by:
    • improving their consultation and engagement practices…
    • doing more to coordinate their actions, both between agencies and between governments
    • ensuring that good regulatory impact assessment processes are used as an analytical tool to support quality regulation making, not as a legitimising tool or compliance exercise.


27 April 2017. Source: Media Release, WA Department of Agriculture and Food

The development of new and improved barley varieties is set to be accelerated, after the complete barley genome was recently mapped by an international consortium, which included Western Australian scientists.

The Western Barley Genetics Alliance, a partnership between the Department of Agriculture and Food and Murdoch University, was a major contributor to the research, assisted by funds from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Alliance Director, Murdoch University Professor Chengdao Li, said the WA-based group was among the elite group of international scientists who mapped two of the seven barley chromosomes…

We have developed the ‘gold standard’ of genetic maps, resulting in greater precision and more detailed data, which will provide plant breeders and researchers with confidence to manipulate genes to develop the next generation of barley varieties,” he said.