GENET archive


9-Misc: Debate in South Australia about its GE crop moratorium

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  GM fear threatens Waite reputation
SOURCE: Stock Journal, Australia, by Deanna Lush
DATE:   21 Jul 2005

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GM fear threatens Waite reputation

SOUTH Australia is becoming a backwater for research into genetically
modified plant technology, Mallala graingrower John Lush says.

He believes anti-GM sentiment in SA is threatening the reputation of the
Waite research cluster as a world leader in agricultural science.

And he is gathering a group of industry leaders to focus on the future of
science in food production.

The group will be pro-science and pro-GM and bring together farming,
science and customer groups to work together for better outcomes for
agriculture, replacing what Mr Lush says is a fragmented approach.

SA is the only State in Australia that does not have a pro-GM group.

Mr Lush, who is immediate past-president of SA Farmers' Federation, says
SA needs such a group to put forward solutions when the SA moratorium on
GM crops, which ends in 2006, is reviewed.

Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics chief executive Peter
Langridge supports the group and says Australia could face losing
researchers to other countries because of its conservative GM stance.

He says many plant science experts in the United Kingdom are relocating
to the United States because of community hostility towards GM
improvements in science and agriculture. He says a similar situation
could happen in Australia.

"The danger we face is we won't be at the forefront of research, we'll be
bringing in research from overseas," Professor Langridge said.

"We need to move forward."

Mr Lush says SA needs to look at the technology and the marketplace, and
be ready for when the world accepts GM crops.

The focus should be on the health benefits science could deliver to the
community. There are some varieties with health benefits "on the shelf"
that could not be commercialised. "If we don't get our act together, even
when the world is ready for GM products, we will be so far behind we
won't have any products for 6-7 years after that," Mr Lush.

He says that while SA has one of the best plant breeding centres in the
world, it cannot get maximum benefit from GM and, under present laws,
more and more researchers would be contracted by overseas companies, with
plant material leaving Australia.

Mr Lush says Australia is already behind in the GM crop revolution with
the US and Canada moving ahead. Mr Lush said China was also moving into
GM crops, while India had announced a five-fold increase in biotechnology

"We have let ourselves get left behind for when the world is ready for GM
food," he said.

"We have the ability we just haven't got our act together to be ready. It
will happen; it's a matter of us being ready for when it does."

Prof Langridge says there are three key problems:

- A clear voice is needed from farmer groups were they in favour of
technology or not because it is not clear what they want.

- A lack of information about agricultural science. Australia is becoming
an increasingly urbanised society and consumers are becoming more remote
from their food production source. As a result, GM scare campaigns feed
on a lack of understanding of food production.

- Linking the science with delivery. How have scare campaigns affected
Australian research ability? Australia cannot afford to drift on the
issue because agriculture is important to the economy.

"We are getting left behind," Prof Langridge said.

"The rest of the world is moving on but Australia is stuck with
technologies we used 20 years ago." He said the Waite campus houses one
of the world's top research clusters but it was starting to come back to
the pack, particularly compared with the US.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  SA will not be left behind: McEwen
SOURCE: Stock Journal, Australia
DATE:   21 Jul 2005

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SA will not be left behind: McEwen

SOUTH Australian Agriculture Minister Rory McEwen says the Waite
cluster's research reputation is not at risk.

He says SA's "hasten slowly" approach to genetically modified crops is a
"very sound response".

"Australia is not getting left behind," he said. "The last thing we want
to do is put at risk proven farming practices for the sake of rushing."

Mr McEwen said there is no commercial pressure to take any GM crops to
the market and scientific, social and ethical issues surrounding GM had
not been resolved. Other outstanding issues were liability and
responsibility for biotechnology data and its introduction into agriculture.

"We must keep the leading edge with science but we must not let present
practices be put at risk," Mr McEwen said.

"There's no point in producing anything if the markets don't want it.
Let's make sure the markets are ready," he said.

Mr McEwen says SA is getting feedback on export markets and there are
changes in how markets are evolving, for example, with the European Union
biotechnology policy.

He says that while SA has protocols in place to deal with contamination,
until the source of the contamination of a Victorian canola shipment to
Japan is finalised, SA protocols cannot be refined.


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