GENET archive


7-Business: Australian farm and food industry call for an end of GE crop bans

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Call for ban on GM crops to end
SOURCE: The Age, by Tim Colebatch, Australia
DATE:   17 Feb 2006

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Call for ban on GM crops to end

A FULL-SCALE review of Australian farm policies has called on Victoria
and other states to end their ban on production of genetically modified
crops, warning that Australia is being left behind by new technologies
used overseas.

A taskforce of 11 farm and food industry leaders, chaired by National
Farmers Federation president Peter Corish, has also caused shockwaves
among farmers by calling on the Federal Government to phase out interest-
rate, fodder and transport subsidies during droughts and instead promote
"self-reliance" among farmers.

But the report also calls for governments to pay farmers for conserving
biodiversity on their land, such as wildlife habitats and stands of
native forest, igniting what is likely to become the next big campaign by
farm groups.

The report was commissioned by the Federal Government. Agriculture
Minister Peter McGauran yesterday praised it, saying he would study its
long list of recommendations and consult widely. But he ruled out one
potentially expensive recommendation: expanding the tax zone rebate to
cover more than 3.5 million people living in rural areas, including much
of Victoria.

The main thrust of the report is to warn that in a world of expanding
competition from lower-cost countries, the only way Australian
agriculture can remain competitive is by increasing use of new technology
and research and development.

Mr Corish said the most important recommendation of the study was that
states should lift their bans on commercial use of gene technology, so
that Australian farmers could catch up with the rest of the world, where
genetically engineered crops are spreading rapidly.

The report points out that while Australia, Argentina, Canada and the US
all began using gene technology in 1996, Australia has now fallen far
behind because Queensland is the only state allowing commercial use.

Argentina now has 65 times as much land producing genetically modified
crops as Australia has. Canada has 21 times as much, the US almost 200
times as much, and even Brazil, which only started in 2003, now has 20
times as much GM crop land as Australia.

In Victoria, the Bracks Government has placed a moratorium on commercial
production of genetically modified crops until February 2008, with
exceptions only for field trials. In Queensland, by contrast, most cotton
is now grown using seeds modified to increase resistance to insects.

"The world is moving forward on genetic technology, and those states that
have moratoria are holding Australia back," Mr Corish said. He said
farmers should be able to use new technology, which made their crops more
resistant to drought, insect pests or saline soils.

The report also proposes that the National Heritage Trust and National
Action Plan for salinity and water quality be replaced in 2008 by a new
program in which governments effectively "buy environmental services"
from farmers, by paying them for their management of the land to promote
biodiversity and water quality.

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

SOURCE: National Farmers' Federation, Australia
DATE:   16 Feb 2006

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Creating our Future: Agriculture and Food Policy for the Next Generation

The Agriculture and Food Policy Reference Group has identified the
principal issues and challenges that need attention if agriculture and
food businesses are to be successful over the next ten to fifteen years.
The nature of modern businesses and the environment in which they operate
mean there is no single area of highest priority.

Download full report
Creating our Future: Agriculture and Food Policy for the Next Generation
PDF [4.7 Mb]


Today's release of the 'Creating Our Future: agriculture and food policy
for the next generation' report by the Agriculture and Food Policy
Reference Group represents an important step towards the establishment of
a blueprint for a sustainable and profitable future for Australia's
agriculture and food industries, the National Farmers' Federation (NFF)
said today.

"The Reference Group Report provides a comprehensive assessment of the
challenges and opportunities that Australia's agriculture and food
industries will face in coming years, and recommends strategies and
policies that will help ensure farmers and food businesses are able to
not only survive, but prosper in a changing business environment," NFF
CEO, Mr Ben Fargher said.

"While the Reference Group is optimistic about the future for Australia
family farms and food enterprises, the Group also highlights the need for
individual farm businesses, industries, supply chains and Governments to
be more flexible and responsive in order to overcome the challenges ahead."

Mr Fargher said that the release of the report should not be taken as the
end of a process, but rather should be seen as the beginning of a path
that will deliver a strong vision for the future of Australia's
agriculture industry.

"The legacy of this report will be determined by the actions of both
industry and Governments in responding to its findings," Mr Fargher said.

"The Agriculture and Food Policy Reference Group was formed in response
to NFF's call for a national blueprint for agriculture, and it vital that
today's report provides a catalyst for Governments and industry to come
together in developing and delivering an integrated national long-term
framework for Australian agriculture.

"In terms of details, NFF strongly agrees with the Reference Group's
conclusions that innovation and leading edge research and development and
more productive supply chain partnerships will be hallmarks of a success
for farm businesses, and agricultural and food industries of the future,"
Mr Fargher said.

"The report's clear directive to Governments on the importance of
minimising the regulatory burden facing businesses, maintaining sound
economic management, and eliminating policies which stifle innovation,
such as State GM moratoriums, cannot be overlooked by policy makers at
both Commonwealth and State levels.

"NFF particularly welcomes the Reference Group's strong recommendation on
the need for a new environmental management program that delivers farmers
robust property rights for both land and water and provides direct
support to those producers delivering environmental services on behalf of
the entire Australian community.

"Land and water resource security, and improved support for on-farm
environmental activities have represented key NFF priorities for a number
of years, and it is encouraging that such a comprehensive, independent
review has lead to strong and supportive recommendations on these
critical issues.

"The Reference Group's call for Government to overhaul the tax zone
rebate as a means of encouraging business and community growth in
regional Australia is also a timely contribution to the current tax
reform debate.

"A consistent theme through the report is the importance of people to the
future of our sector highlighting the need for farmers, with Governments,
to place greater importance on education, skills and labour supply
issues. NFF's recently released Labour Shortage Action Plan is aimed at
addressing these critical issues.

"The report, rightly in NFF's view, highlights that efficient transport
infrastructure, telecommunications infrastructure, trade reform, and
climate change are key issues to address to ensure a competitive and
sustainable future for agricultural industries," Mr Fargher said.

NFF does, however, have reservations over the Reference Group's
recommendation that Exceptional Circumstances (EC) business assistance be
abolished by 2010. While NFF believes an enhanced commitment to assisting
farmers to better prepare for drought will lead to a reduction in future
demand for drought assistance, the arbitrary 2010 deadline is unjustified
and fails to recognise the challenge farmers will face in recovering from
the recent severe drought.

NFF encourages the Federal Agriculture Minister, the Hon. Peter McGauran,
in conjunction with his State and Territory Primary Industry ministerial
counterparts, to detail a clear process through which Government will
respond to, and act upon the recommendations outlined in today's report.

"While a committed response from governments is critical, NFF also
recognises the importance of the Federation taking a lead on behalf of
Australian agricultural industries in responding to this Report, and
therefore we will be using the Reference Group report as a key input into
the development of a new NFF Strategic Plan," Mr Fargher said.

"NFF wishes to acknowledge the significant time and commitment put in by
the Reference Group members," Mr Fargher concluded.


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