GENET archive


GMO-FREE REGIONS & POLICY: GMO moratoria in Australia: Campaigning for GE crops

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: North Queensland Register, Australia

AUTHOR: Aimee Pedler


DATE:   23.08.2007

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State moratoriums for genetically modified organisms should be removed, according to National Farmers Federation president, David Crombie.

Speaking at last week’s Rural Media of South Australia luncheon, he said Australia was missing out by not considering GMs.

”There are all sorts of efficiencies and benefits, such as less fertiliser use, less chemical use and adapting crops to more marginal environments,” Mr Crombie said.

”And, if we’re seeing climate change, this could be a major consideration.”

We’re missing out, he says, because:

- A lot of our smart young scientists are going overseas

- A lot of our competitors overseas already have a real productive advantage over us, in that they are using GMs already.

While he admits there would be market niches where non-GM crops would be important, he believes there would be opportunities where GM crops outperform all else.

”We have to recognise our clean, natural production systems, which differentiate us and create market niches,” Mr Crombie said.

”So I think we have to have the full suite of tools and resources available.

”It’s a highly emotional topic, but I don’t think it needs to be emotional.”

SOURCE: Extract from full report in the Stock Journal, SA, August 23.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: The Age, Australia

AUTHOR: Opinion, by Jason Koutsoukis


DATE:   05.08.2007

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Jason Koutsoukis is The Sunday Age’s federal politics reporter.

MY RECURRING nightmare is that I am abducted by the People Against Genetically Modified Food. Bundled into the back of a 1964 Kombi van, I am transported to their commune, a place where all reason and rational thought is suspended.

Portraits of Democrats leader Lyn Allison and Greens senator Kerry Nettle hang from the walls, while a massive bust of Noam Chomsky dominates my cell.

On my bedside table is a dog-eared copy of Bill Kaysing’s ground-breaking classic We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle and before my show trial I am forced to read all of Peter Singer’s books, with nothing to munch on but a few shrivelled husks of organic corn.

In my dream I can see the puzzled and angry looks on the faces of the anti-GM food activists as I try to justify my shameful beliefs that we can plant genetically modified crops, which are insect and virus resistant, and that would reduce our dependency on pesticides and herbicides.

How could I possibly believe that sowing crops that can tolerate climatic and soil stresses such as drought, salinity and frost, or fruits and vegetables with increased nutritional value, would be a good thing?

Or want to live in a world in which vaccines for common diseases could be inserted into the cells of a banana or a lettuce?

I plead that in countries where needles and hygiene are in short supply this could lead to a cheap, easy and devastatingly effective method of distribution.

Then I wake up, grateful that it’s only a nightmare.

But to write about GM foods in this country — with even the slightest hint that smart foods such as those I have just described should be planted — is to invite the wrath of a highly organised, hysterical minority.

My great fear is that as sensible people such as federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran continue to push for the lifting of the absurd state government moratoria preventing the planting of GM crops, the voices of irrationality might prevail.

The use of biotechnology in food, using what we know about genes and DNA to improve nutrition and human health, seems to me like progress.

The use of biotechnology to put special genes in vital food crops to make them resistant to viral attacks seems to me like a way of helping communities in which the failure of a crop means starvation.

The opponents of GM foods argue that it’s wrong to mess with nature because it’s impossible to tell what might happen. They say that the potential risks of altering the genes of our crops and plants must be given more weight than any possible benefit.

If we adopted that principle then all sorts of life-saving medicines would never have been developed. And what have these supposed risks amounted to anyway?

Last year 102 million hectares of GM crops were grown world-wide by some 10 million farmers in 22 countries.

Millions of people are eating GM foods by the tonne and you know how many are getting sick? Not one.

What of the supposed mutation of ”superweeds”? Not a single example anywhere in the world.

Just as we are able to regulate the medicines we allow drug companies to put on the market, so we should be able to regulate what goes into the foods we eat.

Yes, there might be some risks associated with GM foods, but isn’t it true that every technology has its risks? Why allow politics, and not science, to guide us past those pitfalls?

Using the knowledge gained through scientific research has brought untold wonders to people lucky enough to be born in the 20th century and there is no reason to assume that this will be any different by seeking to improve the foods we eat.

Hopefully, those fanatically opposed to GM foods will, like the Luddites, fail in their attempts to sabotage the new technology.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: Country News, Australia



DATE:   20.08.2007

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Bridgewater farmer Andrew Broad believes Victoria’s moratorium on GM crops will cost farmers in the long run as our international competitors capitalise on the demand.

”As an industry we can’t afford to be arguing over our uptake of technology because the rest of the world is acting,” Mr Broad said.

”Without biotechnology the Australian canola industry will not remain viable.”

He said the Victorian moratorium should never have been introduced.

Mr Broad, a Nuffield scholar who has studied the uptake of GM foods overseas, told last week’s GMO forum that about 80 per cent of Canada’s canola crops were GM crops and the uptake was increasing.

”Canada in 12 years has produced tonnages of GM canola equivalent to 50 years of Australian canola,” Mr Broad said.

At the same time yields had increased by about 15.8 per cent.

”I would have loved to have found a premium for non GM canola but I couldn’t. I looked for it, but I couldn’t find it.”

He said the cost of Round-up ready technology for farmers was significant and needed to be reduced to fit with Australia’s low input-low output farming system.

”The seed companies should base their royalties on end of season production so they share some of the risk,” he said.

Mr Broad was concerned at the level of debate in Australia and believes both the general public and farmers are being poorly informed by those people and organisations campaigning against GM crops.

He said GM crops were not a silver bullet.

”An independent weed management strategy is essential to ensure long-term benefits of GM technology in Australia.”

Mr Broad grows wheat, canola and prime lambs on his 1200 ha property.

                                  PART 4

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SOURCE: Country News, Australia

AUTHOR: Geoff Adams


DATE:   20.08.2007

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Genetically modified crops present an opportunity for farmers but they are not a ”magic bullet” or a replacement for sound management practices, speakers told a forum at Dookie last week.

A Nuffield farm scholar argued that the Victorian moratorium on GM crops, preventing the use of herbicide-resistant canola, should be lifted and feared and unless Australia embraced GM crops it would be left behind on world markets.

University of Melbourne crop agronomy lecturer Dr Ken Young saw an opportunity to improve land stewardship, sustainability, niche markets and human health benefits.

However, while companies were focused on traits like yield, he believes there are other ”altruistic” traits that could be advanced, such as better nutrition.

”But who should pay for these benefits?” he asked the audience.

He pointed to emerging attributes in new crops including drought and temperature tolerance, increased carbon sequestration and better nitrogen utilisation.

Some GM plants are herbicide resistant, and Dr Young referred to the issue of glysophate resistance and the number of places where the resistance had been found in each Australian state after the first instance was discovered in 1996

He said farmers could not solely rely on herbicide tolerant crops to control weeds, but needed to use specific strategies to effectively control weeds and prevent resistance.

Dr Young raised the issue of segregating GM and non-GM crops and who should pay for the cost of assurance for organic or non-GM producers.

Professor Rick Roush from the University of Melbourne’s Land and Food faculty said GM crops offered higher yields, prospective higher profits and time savings.

He said the Canadian experience with canola demonstrated lower fossil fuel use, lower carbon emissions, reduction in soil tillage, less chemical use and better environmental outcomes.

On market acceptance, he said Japan imported about 16 million tonnes of GM corn and soy annually.

At least one person in the audience of the forum didn’t agree with claims of health benefits.

Dianne Teasdale from Shepparton handed out pamphlets warning of the ”madness of GM crops” and challenging assertions about market acceptance and health.

The forum was hosted by the University of Melbourne’s faculty of land and food resources at the Dookie campus.

                                  PART 5

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SOURCE: The University of Melbourne, Australia

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   09.08.2007

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”The issue of GM technology in agriculture is critical to the future of rural Australia. We ignore it at our own peril. We must farm in the real world, not the ideal world. This technology has the potential to produce clear environmental benefits and put money into the hands of farmers, rural communities and the people of Australia.”- Andrew Broad, Director of the Future Farmers Network

The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Land and Food Resources will be hosting a forum on GM technology on Tuesday 14 August 2007 from 10.30 am to 1.30 pm at Dookie Campus. The forum is free with Morning Tea and Lunch provided. Those wishing to attend should RSVP to Sarah Parker on (03) 5833 9274, 0427 535 721 or email

Speakers for the forum include:

- Professor Rick Roush, Dean of the Faculty of Land & Food Resources, University of Melbourne,

- Dr Ken Young, Senior Lecturer in Crop Agronomy, Faculty of Land and Food Resources

- Andrew Broad, Director of the Future Farmers Network & Nuffield Farming Scholar.

With the Victorian moratorium on cultivation of GM canola due to end in February 2008, presentations will be of great interest to users, consumers and organisations that may market genetically modified crops in the future.

Best known for his work on pesticide resistance and its management, Professor Roush will draw on his research experience in agricultural crops and natural ecosystems in the various parts of the world including the US and Australia to deliver a session focussing on the key issues for the sustainability of agriculture including conservation of soil, water and energy, and reduction of the use of fertilizers and so-called ”bad actor” pesticides. Reduction of fossil fuel use, tillage and nitrogen fertilizers are especially important for reducing greenhouse gasses, we also need to ensure that farmers remain financially viable.

”Genetically modified crops already commercialized or in field trials have helped to address all of these needs. GM cops have reduced the use of insecticides by 80% on cotton in China and India, reduced tillage has in turn reduced CO2 emissions by the equivalent of removing some 4 millions cars from the roads, and increased farmer profits. Drought tolerant and nitrogen-use-efficient crops have been field-trialed and show good yields.”

>From 1995 Professor Rick Roush spent eight years in Australia, first as an Associate Professor in the Department of Crop Protection at the University of Adelaide and later, as Chief Executive Officer of the Cooperative Research Centre for Weed Management.

Dr Ken Young will focus on the need for change in both research funding arrangements and regulation of GMO technology in order to increase the potential environmental and health benefits to the community. While the community is becoming more accepting of GMOs, this technology needs to approach the end users of the technology by targeting more environmental and health aspects that GMOs can bring.

A Lecturer in Crop Agronomy at the Dookie Campus, Dr Young believes:

”The adoption of GMO technology offers agriculture opportunities to improve land stewardship, sustainability, niche markets and human health benefits. While this array of opportunities are possible, the presently marketed products are for production oriented traits such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. There appears little development for the more altruistic traits such as better nutritional food value and better environmental outcomes.”

Andrew Broad will focus his presentation on best practice canola production: Exploring

biotechnology, agronomic advances and new grower techniques.

”The issue of GM technology in agriculture is critical to the future of rural Australia. We ignore it at our own peril. We must farm in the real world, not the ideal world. This technology has the potential to produce clear environmental benefits and put money into the hands of farmers, rural communities and the people of Australia. There are large benefits to be gained through biotechnology.”

Genetically modified crops aren’t the ’silver bullet’ for agriculture. Some of the dollar savings in chemicals offered through GM crops will be swallowed up in plant breeder royalties. However, the benefits are very good and if Australia is to remain competitive, the grains industry must have access to this technology.

The reduction in both chemicals and nitrogen fertilizer will have positive outcomes for the environment, as well as the rotational options that this technology offers. The huge move toward bio-diesel, with Europe aiming for 15% by 2015 will increase the need for energy crops; genomic and transgenic will play an important role in this.

                                  PART 6

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SOURCE: National Farmers‘ Federation, Australia

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   13.08.2007

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STATE Governments must seize the opportunities gene technology poses for Australia’s agricultural production base – both in terms of better and more drought-resistant crops, and our long-term economic efficiency and competitiveness on the world stage.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says Australian farmers have been ’left behind’ by an international marketplace that has already embraced GM as a safe and viable science. Australian farmers are now being ’held back’ from cutting-edge farm techniques, based on out-dated hysteria.

”What was once a prudent ’wait and see’ policy, is no longer viable,” NFF President David Crombie said. ”The science is in... the world has moved on from the traditional and overtly emotional arguments against GM crops.

”Australia now must play catch up – and do so quickly – to ensure we win a much greater share of world markets, opportunities which until the GM moratoria are scrapped, will continue to pass us by.

”Farmers must have the opportunity to adopt the method of production best suited to their customers’ needs – be that GM, conventional, organic or any combination of these methods… points of differentiation they can pursue to meet marketplace desires.

”It is the marketplace – both domestic and international – that is demanding the introduction of GM crops. The ’status quo’ will not do. State and Territory Governments must not arbitrarily deny farmers pursuing sensible, scientifically-proven and time-tested methods of production.

”Australian farmers are well-placed to responsibly harness the enormous opportunities gene technology offers… reducing use of pesticides and herbicides, maximising water efficiency, resilience in adverse growing conditions and boosting production yields.”

While pushing for the State moratoria to be lifted, the NFF says the production decisions of one farmer should not unreasonably impinge on the ability of other farmers in meeting the requirements and expectations of the market they chose to meet.

”As with any new technology, it is vital that producers identify and thoroughly assess potential risks, and implement strategies to appropriately manage them,” Mr Crombie added.

”The NFF is satisfied appropriate Australian safeguards exist to ensure food safety and the sustained integrity of organic and conventional food production.

”In fact, Australia’s Gene Technology Act 2000 establishes standards regarded as the world’s most stringent for assessing GM plants for human and environmental safety.

”Australia’s rigorous gene technology regulatory system, and the careful process required to meet commercialisation, means that, with the exception of cotton and canola, new GM plant varieties are unlikely to be ready for another seven years –highlighting just how far behind Australian farmers are in the world market.

”The moratoria had their day. Uptake of gene technology will result in substantial benefits for Australian farmers, the environment, consumers and Australia’s place in the international economy.”


For the NFF’s submission to State Government GM Moratorium Review Panels, see: Submissions to Government.

Submission to the South Australian Government’s GM Moratorium Review

The NFF's 13 August 2007 submission calling on the South Australian Government to lift its moratorium on gene technology...

Submission to the Victorian Government’s GM Moratorium Review

The NFF's 13 August 2007 submission calling on the Victorian Government to lift its moratorium on gene technology...

                                  PART 7

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SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia



DATE:   13.08.2007

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The South Australian Farmers Federation (SAFF) is supporting a federal push for farmers to be allowed to choose genetically modified (GM) canola. Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran yesterday released a report into GM canola, saying all the evidence points to no health risks, and farmers deserve to be able to choose whether to plant it. SAFF president Wayne Cornish says choice must become a key issue in the GM debate. ”Responsible choice is the cornerstone to it all and I think we’ve come a long way in the last couple of years in terms of the community understanding benefits as well,” he said. ”People generally, including the broad community, are much more advanced in their thinking now than they were some time ago.”



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