GENET archive


GMO-FREE REGIONS / PRODUCTS: GM crops need rethink in Australia

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Grow GM crops or face strife: Anderson
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
AUTHOR: Mark Metherel
DATE:   28.02.2007

Grow GM crops or face strife: Anderson

AUSTRALIA is falling behind in the rapid world growth of more productive
biotech crops, such as drought-tolerant and pest resistant strains, the
former deputy prime minister says.

"Food versus fuel" fights over the diversion of crops to biofuels
threaten to hit Australia unless this country dramatically upgrades crop
development, John Anderson believes.

The Nationals MP has called for a rethink on the states' bans against
genetically-modified food crops. "If we are going to avoid an ugly stand-
off over food versus fuel, we are going to have to spend a lot more on
plant research ... because it is very likely that a large part of the
answer on renewable energy will be biofuels," Mr Anderson told the Herald.

The huge potential for genetically modified crops, including the use of
non-grain crops and residues to supplement oil as a fuel, was being lost
to Australia because of irrational fears.

"Many of the current bans have been driven by concern about the unknown
and fears of the so-called 'Frankenstein food' factor but the reality is
more and more GM crops are being grown around the world."

Australia has about 200,000 hectares planted in biotech crops, most of
it modified cotton, compared with the estimated total world area of more
than 100 million hectares, half of it in the United States.

The local distaste for modified foods meant Australia was "a First World
country growing Third World crops", said another Government MP, Mal Washer.

Vaccines in bananas, modified peanuts free of a potentially lethal
allergen, vitamin A in rice and grains containing therapeutic Omega 3
fish oil were all possible, but out of bounds in Australia, Dr Washer said.

Australians would not eat modified food yet happily injected themselves
with genetically modified medicines, such as insulin, he said.

Dr Washer, who raised the issue at the Coalition party room meeting
yesterday, told the Herald later that the federal and state governments
needed to counter irrational barriers to modified food.

State governments, including NSW, have imposed moratoriums on
genetically modified crops, because of crop contamination and export
marketing concerns, despite an approval granted by the federal Office of
the Gene Technology Regulator in 2003 for commercial cultivation of a
modified strain of herbicide-tolerant canola.

Genetically modified foods can be sold in Australia provided they are
labelled as such, but only a "tiny number" of modified products, mostly
imported, are sold, according to the regulatory agency Food Standards
Australia and New Zealand. The CSIRO says no evidence has been found
anywhere of risks from eating genetically modified foods.

"If food prices are to remain low in real terms, advantage must be taken
of advances in all stages of the food production chain, including GM
plants and animals," the CSIRO said.

Mr Anderson said a taste of the explosive potential of the food versus
fuel conflict was already being experienced elsewhere.

Mexicans had rioted over tortilla prices driven up by demand for corn to
produce biofuel. Unrest had broken out in South Africa over competition
for sorghum, used to make beer and its growing role as a biofuel.

Mr Anderson, who retires from politics at this year's federal election,
says his priority is to campaign for Australia to expand its effort on
the development of new generation food and fuel plants.

"This will turn into a race between food and fuel," he said, unless
Australia grappled with the latest technology in food and biofuel
production that would be of crucial significance to drought-hit Australia.

On a visit to the US, he said he saw drought-tolerant crops which
produced more grain and biomass with less water than required by
conventional crops.

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                                  PART II
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TITLE:  GM canola is finding ready markets
SOURCE: Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australia
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   02.03.2007

GM canola is finding ready markets

Genetically modified, or GM, canola is finding ready acceptance in
international markets at prices very similar to those received for
conventional canola, according to a new research report by ABARE.

The report, Market Acceptance of GM Canola, was released today by
Phillip Glyde, Executive Director of ABARE.

The report examines acceptance of GM canola in world markets. Concerns
about acceptance led to moratoriums being imposed by State governments
on the commercial production of GM canola in Australia's key canola
producing states.

'The report found that, in the traditional import markets for canola --
Japan, Mexico, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- GM canola is generally
accepted as readily as conventional canola and is priced at very similar
levels,' Mr Glyde said.

'Despite perceptions of resistance to GM grains in world markets,
countries that are producing GM varieties of soybeans, corn, cotton and
canola dominate the world export trade in these grains', Mr Glyde added.

'For example, virtually all Canada's export canola is considered to be
genetically modified, but this has not stopped its exports reaching
record levels in 2006, more than doubling since GM canola was introduced
in Canada in the mid 1990s,' Glyde said.

Canada accounted for more than 70 per cent of world canola seed trade in
the three years to 2006.

Mr Glyde also pointed to the already wide use of products from GM crops
in the domestic Australian market, particularly with domestically
produced GM cottonseed and imported GM soybean products, and suggested
that GM canola will generally be accepted by food manufacturers and
consumers in Australia's domestic market.

In releasing the report, Mr Glyde acknowledged funding under Australia's
National Biotechnology Strategy.

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                                  PART III
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TITLE:  GM fears a myth
SOURCE: Press Release
AUTHOR: Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australia
DATE:   02.03.2007

GM fears a myth

Australia's traditional export markets for canola accept genetically
modified (GM) canola just as readily as conventional canola - and pay a
similar price for both.

Welcoming the release today of the ABARE report Market acceptance of GM
canola, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter
McGauran, said the report found that GM canola was being accepted in
markets throughout the world and non-GM canola did not appear to be
attracting a price premium.

"Fears about GM canola have proved unfounded and consumers around the
world now accept it to be a safe food ingredient. As a result of this,
Australian growers of non-GM canola are not receiving any overall
premium," Mr McGauran said.

"The analysis conducted by ABARE concludes there is nothing to support
the concerns that unintended presence of GM canola in other grain
exports, particularly wheat and barley, would adversely impact on trade.

"As well as debunking the myths of price premiums and the disruption to
wheat and barley trade, ABARE has shown there is no basis to the fears
expressed that products derived from animals fed GM feed would suffer in
the marketplace.

"The report also confirms that Australia, like many other countries
including those within the European Union, is already a large consumer
of GM products."

Australian-produced GM cottonseed is used as oil for human consumption
and as protein meal for animal feed.

The use of GM feed rations from cotton, along with imported GM soybean
meal, has had no negative impacts for Australia's livestock industries.

"Worldwide acceptance of GM is clear. GM crops are now grown by more
than 10 million growers in 22 countries," Mr McGauran concluded.

Market acceptance of GM canola can be found on the ABARE website:

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                                  PART IV
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TITLE:  WA urged to lift GM crop ban
SOURCE: The West Australian, Australia
AUTHOR: Shane Wright
DATE:   03.03.2007

WA urged to lift GM crop ban

The Federal Government is increasing pressure on the WA Government to
drop its ban on GM crops after a new report found international markets
are not paying higher prices for traditional canola products.

Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran said the State ban was
holding back WA farmers as they tried to compete against growers in the
US and Canada.

It follows the decision by the WA Farmers Federation, as revealed
exclusively in The West Australian yesterday, to drop its opposition to
GM crops.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics report
considered whether exporters of GM canola had found themselves
disadvantaged on international markets.

Opponents of GM crops have claimed that traditional canola crops can get
a premium price, while bans on GM canola keeps it out of important
markets such as Europe.

But the bureau found exports of GM crops, such as canola and soybeans,
expanding greatly.

It also found no evidence that traditional crops were getting higher
prices than their GM counterparts.

"The marketers of GM canola and of products based on livestock fed on GM
materials, including GM canola, do not appear to be disadvantaged in the
Australian and world market," it found.

Mr McGauran said the ABARE report was further proof of the advantages of
GM crops and that Australia was being held back by the various
moratoriums on them put in place by State governments.

But State Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said he believed the ABARE
report showed there were clear market advantages for non-GM grains. Mr
Chance said he would refer the report to the GM reference group which is
to make recommendations to the Government on the future of the GM crop ban.

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                                  PART V
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TITLE:  GM crops need rethink: Heffernan
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
AUTHOR: Australian Associated Press
DATE:   07.03.2007

GM crops need rethink: Heffernan

Australia needs to review its attitude to genetically modified (GM)
crops so the Top End can be transformed into the nation's food bowl,
Liberal senator Bill Heffernan says.

Senator Heffernan told Fairfax newspapers that GM crops such as cotton
were more environmentally friendly because they were more water
efficient and required less chemical pesticides.

Even though West Australia has banned all GM crops, trials of GM cotton
near Kununurra in far north WA had highlighted its potential as a
commercial crop.

"One of the things which would make Kununurra immediately viable would
be GM cotton production," Senator Heffernan said.

"The taskforce and Northern Territory and West Australian governments
have to come to terms with a change of attitude on things like GM produce."

Rice growers had also expressed formal interest in moving to the water-
drenched Top End, which Senator Heffernan said could develop itself as
one of the world's great food, fibre and energy exporters as countries
such as India and China faced problems with food production due to
increasing water storages.

"One of the most alarming things about the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change report is that in 50 years' time, 50 per cent of the
world's population is going to be water poor," he said.

"If Australia is to remain an aggressive world marketer in primary
industries, it needs to look at all the opportunities that present
themselves with climate change."

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                                  PART VI
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TITLE:  Plant GM crops in Burkes backyard
SOURCE: Australian Environment Foundation, Australia
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   07.03.2007

Plant GM crops in Burkes backyard

Don Burke, chair of the Australian Environment Foundation today welcomed
the comments made by Senator Bill Heffernan calling for a rethink on
access to GM crops that can deliver immediate benefits to our drought
stricken environment.

"Senator Heffernan supports what the AEF has been saying for some time -
GM crops are good for the environment.

"Research on GM cotton crops grown in Australia and other crops overseas
show that GM crops produce higher yields with less chemical pesticide
use than conventional crops.

"Senator Heffernan backs up what Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran and
former Deputy PM, John Anderson have said recently, that the status of
Australian farmers as major food producers will fall further behind
while GM crops are being denied to them.

"AEF has backed Australian farmer's efforts to have various state
government moratoria on GM crops lifted when reviewed in 2008.

"Claims that GM crops are somehow not safe or good for the environment
are nonsense" said Mr Burke.

Clearly the evidence in a number of studies shows that GM crops leave a
smaller ecological footprint on the landscape than conventional crops.

A study by PG Economics from the UK, released in January, shows a huge
reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use through the use
of GM crops.

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                                  PART VII
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TITLE:  Allow GM cotton in Northern Territory, Kay
SOURCE: Fibre 2 Fashion, India
DATE:   09.03.2007

Allow GM cotton in Northern Territory, Kay

Chief of Cotton Australia backed farmers request to grow genetically
modified cotton in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Cotton Australia Chief Executive Adam Kay emphasized on 80 percent
reduction in consumption of pesticides after introduction of genetically
modified cotton in 1996.

Since 1999, water use efficiency has reached 67,885 megaliters, an
increase of 11 percent.

He was also supported by Chairman of Australian Environment Foundation
Don Burke saying that GM crops are not harmful for environment.

However opposing these claims, Executive Director of Australian
Conservation Foundation pointed out the problems of feral animals caused
in Australia.

In 2003, Territory Government prohibited cotton and West Australian
Government became a GM-free zone in 2004.

Many farmers are asking for lifting ban on genetically modified cotton
from the region.

At present, cotton industry generates average revenue of US $1.2 billion
per year from exports.

Similarly, Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull stressed on proper
scientific assessment of genetically modified crop.

In order to conduct scientific assessment, Government has already
established Office of Gene Technology Regulator.

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                                  PART VIII
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TITLE:  Pressure mounts to lift ban on GM cotton from the Ord
SOURCE: The West Australian, Australia
AUTHOR: Jodie Thomson
DATE:   10.03.2007

Pressure mounts to lift ban on GM cotton from the Ord

The State Government is expected to come under renewed pressure to lift
its ban on genetically modified cotton crops after a committee appointed
by Agriculture Minister Kim Chance found that the crop could expand
agriculture in the north of the State.

A draft report says a GM cotton industry would be financially robust,
create more than 120 direct full-time jobs and 100 from flow-on effects
from 9000ha of crops.

It pointed to NSW and Queensland, which allow GM cotton to be grown

But the release of the paper, due to have been received yesterday, has
been delayed a month, prompting criticism that it will further frustrate
expansion plans on the Ord River, including the vital Ord Stage 2 project.

Mr Chance, who met the committee yesterday, said there were significant
advantages to GM cotton -- it was an ideal crop to rotate with sugar and
brought a new base crop to the region. The trials over the past decade
also showed that crop yields were strong.

"I believe GM cotton is a crop of the future for the valley, but like
any new crop you need to understand the upsides and the downsides before
you make a decision that it is going to be a goer," he said. "The
downsides are essentially about the crop being cotton, not about the
crop being GM cotton. For example, while the GM crop uses less
pesticides than conventional cotton, that doesn't mean it doesn't use
any pesticides."

He said the discussion paper would provide information to the Government
but not make a recommendation on policy.

Ian Edwards, chairman of biotechnology industry body AusBiotech and a
reference group member, said Mr Chance was using the group and public
consultation period as a stalling tactic.

"GM cotton has now been grown for 11 years commercially in Australia,
side-by-side with non-GM wheat in NSW and Queensland," Dr Edwards said.
"There is simply no rational excuse for not approving GM cotton in the Ord."

He said GM cotton was considered integral to the development of the Ord
Stage 2 scheme.

Another reference group member, Conservation Council of WA director
Chris Tallentire, said concerns about cotton remained, including that it
used a lot of water.

Production of cotton in Kununurra was abandoned in 1973 after crops fell
victim to heliothis moths, caterpillars and other insects despite
widespread chemical spraying.

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