Quarterly Update – Edition 8

  • Council activity
  • Key issues
  • In the pipeline
  • Resources
  • For information
  • Events


Following circulation of the latest edition of ABCA’s Official Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology in Australia launched in March, the Chair of ABCA, Ken Matthews, was invited to meet a number of State Government ministers and departments this month to discuss agricultural biotechnology.

Issues raised in the discussions included: the importance of science and evidence in decisions about agricultural biotechnology; the importance of maintaining and adapting Australia’s first-class regulatory system for GM technologies; the importance of Australia keeping abreast of, and participating actively in, international negotiations about GM; the need for data and evidence about the efficacy of State Government moratoria imposed for marketing reasons; and the importance of policy settings to enable co-existence among conventional, organic and GM farming systems.

Further information:



The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) welcomes Animal Medicines Australia and CANEGROWERS as members. These two industry bodies join a growing body of organisations dedicated to pursuing recognition of the current and potential benefits of agricultural biotechnology.

ABCA aims to ensure that the Australian farming sector can appropriately access and adopt this technology for the benefit of national and global food security, the nation’s farming sector, and the environment, thus helping to deliver a more sustainable and prosperous future for Australian agriculture.

Further information:



A Future Farming Forum co-sponsored by Grain Producers SA and the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) was hosted by the University of Adelaide in South Australia on 22 June.

Topics and speakers were:

  • Practicalities of successful co-existence between GM and non-GM crops – Dr Christopher Preston
  • Current and future markets for GM crop products – David Hudson
  • Agronomic potential of current and future GM crop science technologies – Greg Sefton
  • Supply chain confidence in segregating and delivering GM and non-GM crops to markets – Nick Goddard
  • Consumer attitudes to GM and foods – Heather Bray


Forum speakers: (R to L) Heather Bray, Chris Preston, Greg Sefton and Nick Goddard. Photo courtesy of the Waite Institute.


The forum heard of the grower experience with GM canola to-date and speakers called for growers in South Australia to be allowed to access the technology and be allowed the same choices as their interstate counterparts.

Genetically modified canola is grown in Victoria, NSW and Western Australia, while bans are in place in South Australia until September 2019 and in Tasmania until November 2019.

Forum attendee and Grain Producers SA chief executive officer Darren Arney said the economic benefit to SA graingrowers of remaining GM-free had yet to be quantified.

“The state government’s moratorium is based on a supposed price premium, but they haven’t showed us the marketing advantage of staying GM-free,” he said.

Further information:



ABCA is a proud supporting partner of the upcoming Agricultural Bioscience International Conference (ABIC) to be held in Melbourne in September. The theme for ABIC 2015 is “New thinking, new discoveries and new applications.”

Register to attend at: www.abic.ca/abic2015/index.php?page=Registration

The theme for ABIC 2015 is “New thinking, new discoveries and new applications”. The program features a line up of outstanding plenary speakers. Hear from one of the world’s top 100 most influential people in Biotechnology, Jack Bobo, who will open the conference on Monday 7 September.

Other plenary speakers include:

  • Andrew McConville, Syngenta, Singapore
  • Prof Maurice Moloney, Global Institute for Food Security, Canada
  • Dr Andrew Roberts, Recombinetics, Hong Kong
  • Prof Ian Chubb AC, Australia’s Chief Scientist
  • Rob Scott, China BlueSky Partners, China
  • Patrick Kwok, China Huishan Dairy Holdings Company Limited, China
  • Stephen Scoones, KAHRS
  • Dr Qiang Xu, Decheng Capital, China
  • Prof Shuhong Zhao, Huazhong University, China
  • Michael Raymont, Verdex Capital, USA
  • Adrienne Clarke AC, La Trobe University
  • Prof Jim Whelan, La Trobe University
  • Gerard Davis, Australian Agricultural Company Limited

Connect, learn and share with like-minded professionals at ABIC 2015. With over 25 international speakers and over 60 per cent of registered delegates from overseas, the ABIC 2015 conference is the perfect opportunity to meet with professionals from Australia and around the world.

Further information:



ABCA provides a weekly summary of biotechnology news developments for subscribers. Contact ABCA to be added to the distribution list.

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ABCA is on twitter at @info_ABCA.

Further information:


Representatives from WA Farmers and the Pastoralists’ and Graziers’ Association (PGA) recently met with WA Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston to discuss the repeal of the state’s Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Act 2003. The farming groups both support the Government’s intention to repeal the Act. The proposed repeal is before a committee and expected to be read before parliament by the end of the year.

The WA Labor Party has been vocal in the media about its intention to wind back access to GM crops in the State if it wins the next election. In an ABC radio interview, Labor MLC Darren West said Labor would sit down with industry to develop a long-term plan to transition out of GM crops post-election.

Monsanto Australia’s Managing Director, Daniel Kruithoff said Labor would set the WA grains industry back by 15 years if it won the next election and implemented a policy to stop the growing of GM canola.

Further information:



Crop biotechnology continues to provide substantial economic and environmental benefits, and allows farmers, especially those in developing countries to grow more, using fewer resources according to the latest annual report produced by UK-based PG Economics.

Highlights from this comprehensive review include:

  • Between 1996 and 2013, crop biotechnology was responsible for additional global production of 138 million tonnes of soybeans; 274 million tonnes of corn; an extra 21.7 million tonnes of cotton lint; and, eight million tonnes of canola;
  • If crop biotechnology had not been available to the (18 million) farmers using the technology in 2013, maintaining global production levels at the 2013 levels would have required additional plantings of 5.8 million ha of soybeans, 8.3 million ha of corn, 3.5 million ha of cotton and 0.5 million ha of canola.
  • Crop biotechnology helps farmers earn reasonable incomes for their work. The net economic benefit at the farm level in 2013 was $20.5 billion, equal to an average increase in income of $122/hectare.
  • 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. In 2013, this was equivalent to removing 28 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 12.4 million cars from the road for one year;
  • Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2013) by 550 million kg (-8.6 per cent).

Further information:



CSIRO scientists are hoping to breed wheat with similar health benefits to oats and barley. The research team is currently growing GM wheat crops under field trial conditions which has been modified to include the gene that gives oats their cholesterol-lowering qualities. Grain from the trial will be tested for its bread making qualities, as well as to determine if it actually has cholesterol lowering properties.

Barley and oat grains contain high levels of a soluble fibre called betaglucan that can reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.

CSIRO principal research scientist Dr Steve Jobling is part of the team which recently discovered the key difference between betaglucan in oats and wheat.

“There are very small differences in the enzyme that makes betaglucan in wheat and oats. In fact, there is a single amino acid difference in the protein and we have found that single amino acid difference can change the structure and make it more soluble,” he said.

Following the field trials, the researchers aim to breed the variety conventionally, which will add years to the process.

Further information:



According to news reports, Monsanto believes that Australian canola growers have planted record levels of GM canola.

In Victoria, Victorian grain growers have planted their largest ever GM canola crop, despite canola plantings being down overall by almost 10 per cent because of dry weather and poor prices.

Monsanto has reported that Victorian farmers have purchased 108 tonnes of Roundup Ready canola seeds, up 15 per cent on last year, and planted 47,000 hectares of the crop, which is an increase of about 10,000 hectares from last year. This means that GM canola will comprise about 13 per cent of the state’s overall canola crop.

The company expects GM canola will account for 30 per cent of Western Australia’s crop and 11 per cent of the total New South Wales crop this year.

Further information:



Grain Producers South Australia CEO, Darren Arney, has warned that canola production in the state will continue to decline if growers cannot access GM varieties to compete with their counterparts in other parts of Australia and overseas.

In a related story, Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has urged South Australia to reconsider its moratorium on GM crops. According to media reports, while speaking at an agri-business leaders event in Adelaide, Mr Joyce said it was time South Australia became a ‘yes’ state, particularly in relation to GM crops and nuclear power production, or it risked being overtaken by Darwin as the major city in central Australia.

Further information:



The Organic Industry Standards Certification Council (OISCC) is considering changes to regulations following the recent court case between an organic farmer and his GM canola-growing neighbour in Western Australia. The organic farmer had his farm de-certified by his organic certifier the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) after some of his neighbour’s GM canola was found on his property. The changes to the legislation relate to allowing organic growers greater leniency if GM content is unintentionally found on their property.

The OISCC represents the six companies licensed to give organic accreditation in Australia, including NASAA. One of the six certifying groups, Australian Organic, is seeking a change to the standards that would mean that, if GM material unintentionally came onto an organic farm, it would not necessarily lead to a grower losing their certification.

Further information:



According to a recent article in Australian Canegrower, a research partnership between Sugar Research Australia and Du Pont, involving the development of GM sugarcane is meeting all of its objectives and is on track to technically deliver GM cane varieties to growers in 2018, however the industry needs to consider the timing of introducing GM varieties to the marketplace – too early and risk alienating the supply chain versus too late and losing the competitive edge; the business case needs to stack up for the industry, technical developers, growers, millers and consumers; and, a significant body of work remains to be done to progress the cane through the regulatory pipeline, with field trials needed to assess performance and human health and environmental safety.

There are three licences current with the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) involving GM sugarcane research being undertaken by Sugar Research Australia. The modifications targeted are herbicide tolerance, altered plant growth, enhanced drought tolerance, enhanced nitrogen use efficiency, altered sucrose accumulation, and improved cellulosic ethanol production from sugarcane biomass.

Further information:



Trials of GM safflower, being undertaken by CSIRO in Western Australia’s Ord irrigation scheme, are showing promising signs of potential to be a billion dollar industry for the region in the future according to media reports. The oil content of the GM crop has really impressed researchers. Traditionally safflower produces the oil used in vegetable oil, but the GM safflower has been modified to make the oil it produces more stable, allowing it to be used for industrial applications, for example in electricity transformers. This Australian developed ‘green’ oil could be worth billions according to researchers.

Further information:


CropLife International has recently released its 2015 Plant Biotechnology Product Pipeline which presents an overview of the research being undertaken by its members in the plant biotechnology arena. Products in the ‘Advanced Development’ category, which aim to hit the market within five to seven years, subject to regulatory approvals, are outlined in the table below.


Commodity Modification
Corn Herbicide toleranceInsect resistanceHigher yielding
Soybean Herbicide toleranceInsect resistanceOmega 3Low saturated, zero trans-fat oil
Cotton Herbicide toleranceInsect resistance
Canola Herbicide toleranceIncreased protein, higher nutrient density for feed
Rice Vitamin A enriched (Golden Rice)
Alfalfa Reduced lignin
Bean Virus resistance
Eggplant Virus resistance
Potato Virus resistance
Sunflower Reduced saturates (oil profile)

Further information:



Two European parliament committees, the environment, public health and food safety (ENVI) and the agriculture and rural affairs (AGRI) committee, have proposed plans to ban the cloning of farm animals, as well as prevent their descendants and clone-derived products appearing in the EU market citing serious ethical and animal welfare concerns.

The committees’ recommendations will now go to a full Parliament vote in early September.

To date, cloned farm animals are not used for food but for breeding purposes because of prohibitive costs, with their embryos and semen exported widely in the United States, Argentina and Uruguay without a tracing system.

Further information:



Researchers from the University of Western Australia have made a breakthrough that could assist the future development of crops to cope with production in salty soils worldwide according to a media release.

Professor Timothy Colmer from UWA’s School of Plant Biology and Institute of Agriculture, who led the study, said his team studied how salt affects the reproductive processes in chickpea plants.

“Our findings, together with other experiments on responses of photosynthesis and sugar supply for seed filling in saline conditions, are exciting because they provide greater understanding of chickpea’s salt tolerance, but also how different genotypes express their resistance to saline soils,” Professor Colmer said.

Further information:



Scientists from Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom have published results from field trials of GM wheat outlining their disappointing results. The research team have been undertaking field trials of wheat modified to produce an aphid alarm pheromone to see if it would repel aphids in the lab and field, and while the results in the laboratory were initially promising, the field trials proved otherwise.

Aphids are serious pests of wheat and other arable crops cultivated in the UK, transmitting viruses and reducing yield. Rothamsted Research scientists hoped the GM wheat they were developing would allow farmers to reduce insecticide spraying, benefiting the environment and making farming more sustainable.

“As scientists we are trained to treat our experimental data objectively and dispassionately but I was definitely disappointed. We had hoped that this technique would offer a way to reduce the use of insecticides in pest control in arable farming. As so often happens, this experiment shows that the real world environment is much more complicated than the laboratory,” said Professor Huw Jones, senior molecular biologist at Rothamsted Research with oversight for the genetic changes in the plants.

“However, many aspects of this experiment were highly successful. The genetic engineering component worked very well and GM wheat plants performed as hoped during cultivation. It would have been a fantastic outcome if the experiment had given positive results in the field too but this was not the case and for a first attempt, this was not entirely unexpected.”

Further information:



Researchers from Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom have published the first year results of their field trials of Camelina oilseed plants (false flax) genetically modified to make omega-3 fish oils in their seeds.

“We are delighted with the results of our first year field trial. Finding a land-based source of feedstocks containing omega-3 fish oils has long been an urgent priority for truly sustainable aquaculture. Our results give hope that oilseed crops grown on land can contribute to improving the sustainability of the fish farming industry and the marine environment in the future,” said Dr Olga Sayanova, the senior Rothamsted Researcher who developed the GM Camelina plants.

Omega-3 fish oils are acknowledged by the medical community to be beneficial components of the human diet, and they are primarily sourced from wild or farmed fish. Fish, like humans, accumulate the omega-3 fish oils by feeding on other organisms in the marine food chain or, in the case of farmed fish, through fishmeal and fish oil in feed.

“The omega-3 fish oil trait that we have developed is probably the most complex example of plant genetic engineering to be tested in the field. This is a globally-significant proof of concept and a landmark moment in the effort to develop truly sustainable sources of feed for fish farms,” said Professor Johnathan Napier, leadier of the GM Camelina programme at Rothamsted Research.

The field trial conducted at Rothamsted Research’s experimental farm continues this year. The scientific paper has been published in open-source format from the journal Metabolic Engineering Communications.

Further information:



Researchers in the USA have used a gene editing tool to modify the genome of a tree species for the first time. Their research, published recently in the journal New Phytologist, opens the door to more rapid and reliable gene editing of plants. By mutating specific genes in Populus the researchers reduced the concentrations of two naturally occurring plant polymers – lignin and tannin. The presence of condensed tannins in the leaves and barks of trees deters feeding by ruminants, such as deer, cattle, goats and sheep, and this research development could allow researchers to produce novel varieties of food crops, animal feeds and biofuel feedstocks. The modified Populus plants contained about 20 per cent less lignin and 50 per cent less condensed tannins than wild trees.

Further information:



A recent poll from the Pew Foundation found that almost 90 per cent of scientists from America’s largest science body think GM food is generally safe, while only 37 per cent of the public agree. Should we embrace technology that could help feed the world, or are concerns about the impact of global agribusiness and industrial food production justified?

Four experts spoke to the BBC World Service Inquiry programme.

  • Pamela Ronald: Humans have modified crops for thousands of years. Pamela Ronald runs the Lab for Crop Genetics Innovation at the University of California, Davis. Her team won an award for its decade-long work to isolate the gene that makes rice tolerant to floods.
  • David Ropeik: We are not rational about risk. Risk perception consultant David Ropeik has worked with governments and GM producers.
  • Haidee Swanby: GM technology is dangerous for small farmers. Haidee Swanby works for the African Centre for Biodiversity based in South Africa, which opposes GM crops. South Africa introduced its first GM crop, maize, in the late 1990s.
  • Calestous Juma: GM is an important tool. Calestous Juma directs the Harvard-based Agricultural Innovation in Africa project, which is funded by the Gates Foundation and supports the use of GM crops.

Further information:



According to an article published in the Journal of the Institute of Food Science and Technology a study undertaken by German researchers investigating the implementation and cost of coexistence strategies for farmers, agri-food supply chain operators and consumers has found that the current measures implemented to ensure coexistence of GM and non-GM crops in the EU are practically feasible, both at farm level and along the supply chain under current EU legislation. The researchers believe that lower thresholds, or other stricter measures, would cause difficulties for the supply of non-GM feedstock.

Further information:



Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science presents findings suggesting that the humble sweet potato is in fact genetically modified, and, what’s more, it appears to have genetically modified itself.

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium analysed sweet potatoes as part of an effort to investigate viral diseases and they found something rather unexpected: genes of a particular species of bacteria known as Agrobacterium were present in the sweet potato. Further examination of 291 sweet potato samples showed the presence of Agrobacterium genes.

Researchers have since examined wild sweet potatoes, as opposed to lab cultivated specimens, and found that some closely related species also contain the Agrobacterium genes (called T-DNA). The research suggests that an Agrobacterium infection occurred, not once, but twice, in the plant’s evolution. One of the T-DNAs is apparently present in all cultivated sweet potato clones, but not in the crop’s closely related wild relatives, suggesting the T-DNA provided a trait or traits that were selected for during domestication.

Every sweet potato plant contains foreign genes obtained through a process similar to that used to create GM foods. According to the article, “this finding draws attention to the importance of plant–microbe interactions, and given that this crop has been eaten for millennia, it may change the paradigm governing the “unnatural” status of transgenic crops.”

Further information:



An article published in the Journal of International Biotechnology titled, ‘Looking back at safety assessment of GM food/feed: an exhaustive
review of 90-day animal feeding studies’ has reviewed the safety assessment of GM plants before they can be commercially-approved. Traditionally, the safety assessment includes comparative compositional and other phenotypic analyses between the GM line and a conventional counterpart. In the EU, these comparisons are now often followed by 90-day animal feeding studies. Researchers reviewed 44 peer-reviewed articles describing the 90-day feeding studies for nine crops
since 1995 and 60 opinions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which have or not included such tests. None of these studies indicated safety problems. Despite this, the authors note there is an increasing trend to such feeding studies in the EU and they discuss this development.

Further information:



The table below provides a summary of applications made to amend the Food Standards Code by approving the listed GM commodities as safe for use in Australia and New Zealand.


Reference Commodity Applicant Modification Details
A1110 Soybean Monsanto (Reference: MON87751) Insect resistance Public comment sought by 26 August..
A1112 Corn Syngenta (Reference: MZHG0JG) Herbicide tolerance New application. Public comment will be sought in October/November.
A1106 Corn Pioneer Hi-Bred Australia via SGA Solutions (Reference: 4114) Herbicide tolerance, insect resistance. Public comment submissions closed 16 July.
A1097 Corn Monsanto (Reference: MON87411) Herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. Approved for use in the food chain.

 For further information:



This table provides a summary of licence applications and approvals granted by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) in relation to agricultural biotechnology in the last quarter.


Reference Commodity Developer Modification Status
DIR 134 Carnations International Flower Developments Altered flower colour. A licence application has been made to commercially import and sell these cut flowers. Public comment is currently being sought.
DIR 135 Sugarcane University of Queensland Enhanced sugar content. Field trial licence sought. A consultation Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (RARMP) is being finalised.
DIR 136 Cotton CSIRO Enhanced fibre quality. Field trial licence sought. Public comment period pending.
DIR 138 Canola Bayer CropScience Dual herbicide tolerance (glufosinate-ammonium and glyphosate) Commercial release licence sought. Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (RARMP) currently being compiled for public comment.

 For further information:



South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has successfully secured an inquiry into certification of halal, kosher, organic and genetically modified food.

On 13 May, Senator Barnardi moved a motion to launch an investigation into food certification schemes. The parliamentary inquiry will be asked to examine “the extent of food certification schemes and certifiers in Australia including, but not limited to, schemes related to organic, kosher, halal and genetically-modified food and general food safety certification schemes”.

In greater detail, the Committee will consider the current labelling requirements of food certification schemes; the need for labelling on products produced by companies that pay certification fees; whether current schemes provide enough information for Australian consumers to make informed purchasing decisions; details regarding certification fees paid by food producers and/or manufacturers, and the potential for these to impact on prices for consumers; the importance of food certification schemes in relation to export market access and returns to producers; and, the extent and adequacy of information available to the public about certifiers including, but not limited to, certification processes, fees and financial records.

The Economics References Committee will report back to the Senate on this matter by 30 November 2015.

Further information:



An investigation is underway in France to uncover how meat from a lamb born to a genetically modified sheep entered the food chain in France last year.

The sheep was genetically modified as part of a medical research programme being undertaken by the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). It contained a jellyfish protein (GFP) which is often used by researchers to light up specific parts of an animal, like muscle cells or brain cell circuits, and in the case of this sheep, the heart was the focus of the research.

The lamb, known as Rubis, inherited the GFP gene, and according to media reports in France, a dispute between researchers at INRA may have been the cause of the animal being deliberately mixed with several other (non-GM) lambs and sent to the abattoir last year.

Investigators suspect a researcher may have tricked his superior into signing a document sending the animal to the abattoir.

“The consumption of this meat presents no risk for the health for the consumer,” said Benoît Malpaux, President of INRA.

“We are sure that individual acts that are unacceptable were committed … followed by a chain of errors and responsibilities within the hierarchy.”

Further information:



Three years ago scientists from the USA and Sweden invented a technology, CRISPR-Cas9, that is changing the field of biotechnology. According to one analogy, CRISPR-Cas9 is like a biological word processing system that allows scientists to cut and paste DNA almost as easily as if they were editing a journal article. The technology is more precise, targeted and far quicker than transgenics – the previously ‘traditional’ process of moving genes from one organism into another.

Three years on, it remains unclear how new crop varieties produced with such technologies will be regulated, as regulatory regimes did not anticipate this kind of simple precision. The US Department of Agriculture has said it is studying CRISPR/Cas9 and will make recommendations in the near future. But recent developments suggest that plants that lack an introduced gene may not fall under the USDA’s regulatory authority.

Australia’s food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, has considered some of the new biotechnology tools being used globally, and released workshop reports discussing them in depth. In relation to regulating foods and crops arising from the use of CRISPR/Cas9, they concluded, “when used to introduce small changes, such techniques do not present a significantly greater food safety concern than other forms of mutagenesis. Providing the introduced DNA has been segregated away from the final food producing lines, food derived from plants modified using these techniques would be similar to food produced using traditional mutagenic techniques, and should therefore not be regarded as GM food. When used to introduce a new gene however, the techniques would be equivalent to transgenesis and, as such, any food products should be regarded as GM.”

Further information:



The European Commission has recently authorised 10 new GM products for food and feed use and renewed seven existing authorisations. The new authorisations are:

  • Corn – drought stress tolerant
  • Soybean – two herbicide tolerant and three herbicide tolerant and modified oil profile
  • Canola – herbicide tolerant
  • Cotton – two herbicide tolerant and one herbicide tolerant and insect resistant

These products have not been approved for cultivation in the EU, but they have all been approved as safe for food and feed use. The GM food and feed authorisations will be added to the existing list of 58 GMOs authorised in the EU for food and feed uses (covering corn, cotton, soybean, oilseed rape, sugar beet). The authorisations are valid for 10 years, and any products produced from these GM products will be subject to the EU’s labelling and traceability rules.

Further information:



Brazil is the first country in the world to permit the commercial use of GM trees. The Brazilian National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) approved the commercial use of the yield-enhanced eucalyptus developed by FuturaGene. According to the company, field experiments conducted since 2006 at various locations in Brazil have demonstrated an approximate 20 per cent increase in yield compared to its equivalent conventional variety. An impact study concluded that the GM eucalyptus will be ready to harvest in 5.5 years compared with the seven-year harvest of conventional eucalyptus in Brazil’s forestry plantations. Consequently, it will require 13 per cent fewer hectares to meet the same wood demand as existing crops.

Further information:



The Canadian government has revised its proposed Policy on the Management of Low-Level Presence of Genetically Modified Crops in Imported Grain, Food and Feed and its Associated Implementation Framework for Grain according to news reports.

Low-level presence (LLP) is the unintended presence, at low levels, of minute amounts of GM material that has been approved in at least one country but not necessarily in the importing country.

There is no international agreement defining or quantifying low-level GM content and, as a result, interpretation varies from country to country. In most countries, there are no generally applicable low-level GMO policies, legislation or regulations in place.

This follows the release of a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) last year which found the increased production of GM crops around the globe had led to a higher number of low levels of GMOs being detected in traded food and feed, and as a consequence of this, more 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 Australian Government is also active in this area of policy development, participating in the Global Low Level Presence Initiative; and undertaking work to understand the decision making process required to manage any potential LLP incidents in Australia.

Some industry groups, such as CropLife Australia and Grain Trade Australia, have also developed their own individual policy statements on LLP.

Further information:



Crops that can better withstand high temperatures are a step closer according to research results announced by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Researchers have succeeded in isolating and cloning heat-tolerant genes from African rice strains, which could help develop rice varieties that can withstand climate change brought about by global warming.

A gene isolated from the African rice strain can automatically activate when heat strikes. It works to remove toxic proteins whose accumulation leads to the plant’s death. The cloned gene will be used to develop new varieties of crops such as rice and wheat.

Further information:



According to news reports, the US Government’s Agriculture Department has developed a new government certification and labelling scheme for foods that are free of GM ingredients. The labelling of GM foods and ingredients is not mandatory in the USA, as it is in the European Union, Australia and a range of other countries.

The proposed certification scheme would be voluntary and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a “USDA Process Verified” label along with a claim that they are free of GMOs.

Further information:



Researchers in the USA have first used biotechnology to create a new soybean variety with significantly reduced levels of three key proteins responsible for the allergenic and anti-nutritional effects in conventional soybeans, and then, they have worked backwards creating a conventional variety with the same properties

In 2003, researchers at the US Department of Agriculture targeted the soybean’s key allergen, and using biotechnology, they removed the allergen from the crop. To circumvent the regulatory issues surrounding GM crops, the researchers then set out to create a similar soybean using conventional breeding methods that do not fall under the legal definition of a GMO. After nearly a decade of crossbreeding the team has produced a soybean that lacks the three proteins responsible for allergen and/or anti-nutritional effects.

Further information:



Scientists in New Delhi are hoping that oilseed mustard will be the next GM crop to be commercialised in the country following successful field trials. Despite the success of GM cotton in India, other GM commodities, particularly an insect resistant eggplant, have failed to progress through the regulatory pipeline because of powerful anti-GM lobby efforts.

The new GM mustard offers India a chance to substantially reduce its food import bill as it would be the highest-yielding oilseed in India, with yields 26-34 per cent higher than the national average, said Delhi University’s Deepak Pental, leading the research on the GM mustard. Pental said recently concluded biosafety studies did not show any adverse human health or environmental impact.

Further information:


Location: Parliament House, Canberra

Date: 10-12 August 2015

Details: The theme of this year’s Crawford Fund Conference is ‘The business of food security: balancing profitability, sustainability and risk’, and the program will focus on the importance of collaboration and partnership between the public and private sectors to achieve sustainable intensification of agriculture and improved food security.

Contact: www.crawfordfund.org/events/2015-conference/



Location: Melbourne Convention Centre

Date: 7-9 September 2015

Details: The theme for ABIC 2015 is “New thinking, new discoveries and new applications”. More than building on past accomplishments to create a strong and sustainable industry, the program will celebrate innovation in agricultural biotechnology. Attracting delegates from a broad range of industries and backgrounds, the program will be built around three streams, each critical to the global application of biotechnology in agriculture.

  1. Biomes as systems: A big picture approach to interactions between forages and plant protection, livestock and rumen microbiomes, and agricultural produce.
  2. Making the seemingly impossible possible: This stream focuses on new thinking and new discoveries being applied in plant biotechnology.
  3. Making it work in the real world: What are the implications of new generation technologies and products entering the market where there is increasing regulation, trade constraints and competition for investment?

Contact: www.abic.ca/abic2015

Disclaimer: The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia Limited (ABCA) gives no warranty and makes no representation that the information contained in these sections is suitable for any purpose or is free from error. ABCA accepts no responsibility for any person acting or relying upon the information contained in these sections, and disclaims all liability.