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GMO-FREE REGIONS & POLICY: GMO moratoria in Australia: Cotton farmers call for Bt cotton




                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  COTTON GROWERS ENCOURAGE WA TO CHANGE GM STANCE

SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia

AUTHOR: 

URL:    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/14/2004595.htm

DATE:   14.08.2007

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COTTON GROWERS ENCOURAGE WA TO CHANGE GM STANCE

The peak body representing Australia’s cotton growers has predicted an industry in the Kimberley would be lucrative should the Western Australian Government change its stance on genetically modified (GM) strains of the crop. The Western Australian Government has given its strongest indication yet that cotton may be exempted from its ban on GM crops, following a favourable report that is currently open for public comment. Cotton Australia, which represents 900 growers in the eastern states, has welcomed the prospect. Chief executive Adam Kaye says there is tremendous global demand for cotton from South-East Asia and China. ”I certainly think there is interest from producers in New South Wales and Queensland,” he said. ”If there was an opportunity to move into production, I know there is a lot of young farmers who would be interested in pioneering production in a new area.”



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  GM COTTON CONSIDERED FOR ORD

SOURCE: Western Australian Business News, Australia

AUTHOR: Janelle Macri

URL:    http://www.wabusinessnews.com.au/story/1/55611/GM-cotton-considered-for-Ord

DATE:   09.08.2007

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GM COTTON CONSIDERED FOR ORD

The state government has signalled the possibility of lifting its ban on genetically modified crops, which could lead to major investments in a new GM cotton industry in the Ord River irrigation area.

Agriculture and Food Minister Kim Chance last week released a discussion paper into the potential for GM cotton production in the state’s north, which industry groups say would underwrite the development of Ord Stage Two and bring significant economic and social benefits to the region.

Mr Chance said GM cotton had been growing in trial plots in the Kimberley for more than 10 years, showing high yields without any significant problems.

The government paper detailed the benefits of GM cotton in reducing pesticide and herbicide use, increasing yields and making Australian cotton farmers more globally competitive.

It comes almost a year after the formation of the Ministerial GMO Industry Reference Group, which was tasked with identifying the main issues associated with the production of GM crops in WA.

While Queensland and New South Wales have allowed the production of GM cotton for more than 10 years, Western Australia’s GM moratorium covers both food and fibre crops.

The report said that previous attempts to grow cotton in the Ord River irrigation area during the 1960s and 1970s had failed due to high pest pressure, with large quantities of DDT and other insecticides used to control bollworm, a major cotton pest.

The report also suggests GM cotton could be grown in rotation with other crops, such as sugar, providing diversity for the region’s agricultural base.

Western Australian Farmers Federation president Trevor De Landgrafft endorsed the discussion paper, and called on the minister to lift the moratorium.

He said the introduction of a cotton industry in the Ord would support existing crops and provide the critical mass to allow associated service industries and infrastructure to develop in the region.

”It’s almost a no brainer that the minister needs to encourage cotton production in the Ord as quickly as possible,” Mr De Landgrafft said.

But other groups have challenged some of the assumptions made in the report, accusing it of overstating the benefits.

Anti-GM campaigner Julie Newman of the Network of Concerned Farmers said while the GM traits conferred the benefits of weed and insect control, benefits such as increased water use efficiency, yields and quality were due to the non-GM varieties the GM trait was added to, not the GM trait itself.

She said that, while GM cotton production in Australia to date had resulted in some of the highest yields in the world, she had doubt over some of the high yields projected for the Ord irrigation area.

”[Bt] kills only two insects, and no others. Particularly in tropical areas, you’re going to have much higher insect densities,” she said.

”It’s a bit unreasonable to expect to have higher yields than the highest yields in the world.”

Mrs Newman said Australian cotton farmers, unlike their subsidised counterparts in other countries, would be forced to bear the costs of the new technology.

”Once you look at the big picture it’s not a healthy economic option for farmers,” she said.

Mr De Landgrafft said while work was currently being done to reduce technology costs for farmers, there would need to be close monitoring of ag-biotech companies and their charges for seed.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:  GM COTTON FOR ORD WINS KEY SUPPORT

SOURCE: The West Australian, Australia

AUTHOR: Jodie Thomson

URL:    http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=146&ContentID=36463

DATE:   05.08.2007

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GM COTTON FOR ORD WINS KEY SUPPORT

A crucial report has found that growing genetically modified cotton could be worth more than $50 million a year to the East Kimberley, boosting the case for the crop to be approved by the State Government.

The report, by the State Government appointed reference group, found that allowing GM cotton would generate 220 full-time jobs across 9000ha as part of the proposed Ord River Stage 2 development.

”The results indicate that a GM cotton industry would be financially robust and there may be significant social benefits,” the report said.

It also found GM cotton would use far less insecticides than traditional cotton varieties and less water than the region’s major crop, sugar cane.

Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said public reaction to the report’s findings would play a strong role in whether the Government made GM cotton exempt from its moratorium on GM crops.

”Non-GM cotton is not something that we would ever encourage (in the Ord region) . . . simply because of the insect issues and herbicide use issues, it would be irresponsible,” he said.

Mr Chance said the State Government aimed to develop a policy position on whether GM cotton would be allowed in the Ord before expressions of interest were called for the proposed expansion of the irrigation area.

He said the report was a discussion paper and did not make recommendations on Government policy.

But the polarised views of the reference group, set up by Mr Chance in late 2005, have been highlighted through several minority reports.

Conservation Council of WA director Chris Tallentire questioned the validity of reported low water usage for GM cotton.

”We remain unconvinced that there will be no adverse impact on the soil and environment,” he said. ”Cotton is a thirsty crop, and insertion of the genes to enable the plant to combat specific pests does not render the plant less thirsty.”

Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley chief executive Peter Stubbs said the State Government should move quickly to allow GM cotton to be grown and to open more areas of the Ord for irrigation.

”The State Government has been supporting GM cotton research at Kununurra for 10 years, and its public sector officers and researchers recommend GM cotton as crop option for expanding the Ord,” he said.

”The fact that 90 per cent of Australia’s cotton crop is already GM cotton, means WA is lagging behind on this issue and the Ord Scheme is being held up by State Government policy.

”The market needs to decide which crops are appropriate for the Ord Scheme, not politics.”



                                  PART 4

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TITLE:  GM COTTON REPORT OPENS NEW POTENTIAL FOR ORD REGION

SOURCE: Western Australian Business News, Australia

AUTHOR: Janelle Macri

URL:    http://www.wabusinessnews.com.au/archivestory/13/55503/GM-cotton-report-opens-new-potential-for-Ord-region&year=2007&P_build=1&pg=0&P_author=&P_headline=&P_summary=gm%20cotton&month=08&span=6

DATE:   03.08.2007

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GM COTTON REPORT OPENS NEW POTENTIAL FOR ORD REGION

The state government has signalled the possibility of lifting its ban on genetically modified cotton crops, which could lead to major investments in a new cotton industry in the Ord River irrigation area.

Agriculture and Food Minister Kim Chance released a discussion paper into the potential for GM cotton production in the Ord, which is currently reliant on commercially-marginal sugar farms.

A statement from Mr Chance said GM cotton has been growing in trial plots in the Ord for more than 10 years without any significant problems and yields have been encouraging.

Industry groups believe GM cotton is the crop that could underpin the long-delayed development of the second stage of the Ord.

State development minister Eric Ripper disappointed the industry in June, when he said the government would commence a new expressions of interest process for Ord stage 2.

The report released today detailed the benefits of GM cotton in reducing pesticide and herbicide use, increasing yields and making Australian cotton farmers more globally competitive.

The report comes almost a year after the formation of the Ministerial GMO Industry Reference Group, which was tasked with identifying the main issues associated with the production of GM crops in WA.

While Queensland and New South Wales have allowed the production of GM cotton for more than 10 years, WA’s GM moratorium covers both food and fibre crops.

The report claims that previous attempts to grow cotton in the ORIA during the 1960s and 1970s failed due to high pest pressure, which saw large quantities of DDT and other insecticides applied to control cotton bollworm, the major pest in the ORIA.

Planting GM cotton, which has been inserted with a naturally-occurring soil bacterium that controls cotton pests, would avoid the need to use insecticide to control the two most common cotton pests.

However, insecticides must still be used to control other pests.

The report also suggests GM cotton could be grow in rotation with other crops in the ORIA, such as sugar cane, preventing the build-up of soil pests and diseases.

While the Western Australian Farmers Federation and several biotech groups have endorsed the discussion paper, other groups have expressed apprehensions, challenging some of the assumptions made in the report and accusing it of overstating the benefits.

Non-GM campaigner Julie Newman of the Network of Concerned Farmers said that while the GM traits conferred the benefits of weed and insect control, other benefits, such as increased water use efficiency, yields and quality, are due to the non-GM varieties the GM trait is added to and not the GM trait itself.

 

The full text of a ministerial announcement is pasted below

Agriculture and Food Minister Kim Chance today released a report for public comment, examining the potential for genetically modified (GM) cotton production in the Ord River Irrigation Area.

The report was prepared by the Ministerial GM Industry Reference Group, and feedback is sought from stakeholders about future production of GM cotton in the Ord River Irrigation Area.

The reference group was established in 2005 to identify logistical, agronomic, marketing and other issues relating to the use of biotechnology in agricultural crops in Western Australia.

The ’GM Cotton in the Ord River Irrigation Area’ report is the first of a number of discussion papers being prepared by the reference group for public comment.

Mr Chance said the paper provided an overview of current and potential cotton production in Australia, as well as the status of global production of GM cotton and potential markets and prices.

”An analysis has also been completed on the potential opportunities for growing GM cotton in the Ord including water and chemical requirements, social impact and economic viability,” he said.

”The discussion paper also outlines on-farm management issues and environmental and health considerations.”

GM cotton has been growing in trial plots in the ORIA for more than 10 years without any significant problems and yields have been encouraging.

There is currently a moratorium on the commercial production of GM crops in WA and the State Government is seeking feedback from the community on allowing GM cotton in the ORIA.

The public comment period will be open for four weeks from today until August 31, 2007.

Copies of the report are available by calling Richard Williams from the Department of Agriculture and Food on (08) 9368 3675.



                                  PART 5

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  WATER-SAVING COTTON

SOURCE: Solve, Australia

AUTHOR: Gio Braidotti

URL:    http://www.solve.csiro.au/0807/article10.htm

DATE:   01.08.2007

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WATER-SAVING COTTON

The cotton industry’s success with genetic modification to amplify pest-management benefits has led it to target even more ambitious gains.

Having seen biotechnology reduce pesticide use in cotton crops by 80–90 per cent, Cotton Australia is applying a similar strategy to slash the amount of water needed to grow cotton. This bold target is, again, relying on CSIRO expertise across a range of agricultural technologies.

Over the next three years, $17 million provided by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and the Cotton Catchment Communities Cooperative Research Centre will be spent applying a broad range of technologies to achieve Cotton Australia’s target of doubling the water-use efficiency of cotton crops in just 10 years.

Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay admits the goal is ambitious, but given the unprecedented success of pest control and pesticide reduction based on cutting-edge gene technologies, he is confident the new goal is achievable.

The water-use efficiency target will be based on a similar strategy developed to introduce and sustain the genetically modified (GM) cotton that has allowed the industry to dramatically cut back on its use of environmentally damaging pesticides.

At CSIRO Entomology, assistant chief Dr Gary Fitt explains that in dealing with cotton’s major pest – the Helicoverpa moth – CSIRO developed GM cotton varieties using Monsanto’s Bt gene, which delivers an insecticidal protein obtained from the Bt soil bacterium.

However, Bt toxins have been used for decades as environmentally friendly sprays, and overseas studies have shown that insect pests are capable of developing resistance to Bt when the compound is over-used as a spray.

”In Australia, Helicoverpa has a history of repeatedly evolving resistance to pesticides,” Dr Fitt says. ”So when GM cotton became available in Australia it was released with a specially designed, pre-emptive resistance management strategy.”

These combined advances – in biotechnology and resistance management – have since delivered unprecedented environmental and pest-management benefits. Gains include a resurgence of beneficial insects that help growers deal with additional pests. The strategy also includes a longstanding monitoring system that allows CSIRO to determine that after a decade of using GM cotton, there has been no change in the resistance status of Helicoverpa to Bt.

Mr Kay says preventing the emergence of resistance is essential to the industry’s future. ”The strategy we used was based on the best science available and that was provided by CSIRO.”

He further stresses that although the benefits brought about by GM technology are unquestionable, the industry also needs great cotton varieties in which to introduce novel GM traits. ”This is where CSIRO Plant Industry’s cotton breeding program is so critical: it provides the platform for continuous improvements in yield and fibre quality through the addition of conventional and GM traits.”

Looking to the future, Mr Kay says there are more GM traits in the R&D pipeline and that the next big issue is water: ”We already have the most efficient water-use growers in the world, but we are looking to add further to those achievements.”

APPLICATION CSIRO expertise in plant biotechnology and integrated management systems is assisting Australia’s cotton industry.

BENEFIT Concurrent gains to cotton growers and the environment through massive reductions in pesticide use.


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