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[genet-news] SCIENCE & POLICY: Australian professor and GE canola grower runs gene flow project

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Farm Weekly, Australia



DATE:   20.04.2009

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A Grains Research and Development Corporation funded research project, ?Gene flow in transgenic Roundup Ready (RR) Canola?, will be one of the 20 genetically modified GM canola trials covering 854 hectares in WA this season.

Internationally recognised expert on herbicide resistance in crops and weeds, Professor Stephen Powles, Director of the WA Herbicide Resistance Initiative (WAHRI) at The University of Western Australia (UWA) and WAHRI researcher, Dr Roberto Busi, will drive the WA component of the five-year national project.

Professor Powles said the GRDC project, which started in eastern Australia in 2008, will begin in WA this year and would address concerns expressed by some about the potential for gene flow from GM Canola to nearby canola crops.

While gene flow studies have already been completed in imidazolinone tolerant or Clearfield canola, the commercial release of GM RR canola allows the field studies on pollen flow and impacts on weed populations to be completed in a GM situation.

?Although the Australian Gene Technology Regulator has approved RR canola as safe to humans and the environment, the first field trials of RR canola in WA in 2009 offer a welcome opportunity to more fully understand how GM canola can best be used in WA cropping and to address any lingering community concerns,? he said.

Professor Powles said that while canola was mostly a self-pollinated crop, cross pollination via insects and/or wind could occur.

?This new three-state, GRDC-supported project will fully investigate the potential for gene flow in RR canola and other questions on GM canola,? Professor Powles said.

The GRDC project is led by Chief Investigators, Professor Rick Roush, The University of Melbourne, Professor Powles, UWA and Associate Professor Chris Preston, The University of Adelaide.

RR canola has been successfully commercially grown in Canada, USA and Argentina for more than a decade, but only commenced in Australia in 2008 in NSW and Victoria, where at least 100,000 hectares of RR canola is likely to be grown this year.

Australian Oilseeds Federation and GRDC have released a booklet, GM Canola ? Performance and Experiences in 2008, which presents 13 grower case studies, four trials and an independent Better Canola demonstration of RR canola in its first year in NSW and Victoria.

According to the GRDC, the main reason why growers planted RR canola was better weed management options.

The GRDC?s Dr Andreas Betzner described GM herbicide resistant canola as ?another tool in the weed management toolbox? for many growers.

?Those who?ve grown it seem to be generally happy with the technology, so it?s not surprising an increase in the area planted to GM herbicide resistant canola across Victoria and NSW is expected this year,? he said.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Farm Weekly, Australia

AUTHOR: Colin Bettles


DATE:   23.04.2009

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PROFESSOR Stephen Powles knows a lot about Genetically Modified (GM) plants, which is why he has decided to grow a revolutionary GM canola crop on his farm.

And he is not afraid to bust a few myths and stand up to the scare tactics of the anti-GM brigade.

As part of the GM canola trials to be held in WA this year, Professor Powles is growing 50 hectares of Roundup Ready canola on his farm at Quairading.

He planted conventional canola last year, which suffered some frost damage, along with his barley and wheat.

However, this year?s crop will be something entirely different.

He has owned the property for two years and will be trialling GM canola, in partnership with farmers Noel and Shauna Stone.

Last week Agriculture Minister Terry Redman announced that GM trials would be conducted on 17 individual farms, with Professor Powles one of those selected to participate.

The trials will also be conducted at three research stations.

In total, 854 hectares of GM canola will be planted.

Professor Powles will also lead a research study to evaluate gene flow from GM canola to non-GM canola.

This study will be supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation and forms part of a national evaluation on the impacts of GM canola.

Prof Powles said his knowledge of GM?s gave him the confidence to speak openly in public about the trials.

He moved to WA from South Australia 10 years ago, and is a Winthrop Research Professor at the University of WA.

He said his role as chairman of the Gene Technology Advisory Committee has restricted him from making public comment on the GM issue over the past eight years.

However, he is no longer chairman and can now speak publicly.

?There are a small number of vocal people who are strongly opposed to GM,? he said.

?And most of them are unconstrained by the truth, in what they will say.

?A frequent mistruth is that GM canola will cross with weeds to produce super weeds.

?They say canola will cross with these weeds and produce super weeds that are resistant to glyphosate.

?The reality is very different to that, because it?s extremely difficult for one plant species to cross with another species.?

Read full story in this week?s Farm Weekly.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: Farm Weekly, Australia

AUTHOR: Colin Bettles


DATE:   23.04.2009

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CUNDERDIN grain grower Norm Jenzen said he was looking forward to measuring the performance of GM canola that will be growing on his farm this season.

Mr Jenzen said the GM canola would fit neatly into his integrated weed management program.

?GM canola is just another tool for farmers to use in weed control,? he said.

?Whether or not we decide to use it will all come down to basic economics.

?If it doesn?t work, farmers will get rid of it, it?s as simple as that.?

Mr Jenzen said having the option to grow GM canola in WA would help open the door to the possible application of GM technology in other areas of grain growing.

?In the next 10 years I?d like to see the technology developed for other uses in farming for things like drought and frost tolerance,? he said.

WOOGENELLUP grower Mark Adams is planning to seed his GM canola between the last week of April and the second week of May.

He took delivery of a 200kg quantity of GM seed last week, and is now gearing up to put it in the ground.

?We have good sub soil moisture but not quite enough top soil moisture just yet,? he said.

?Our other canola varieties will go in around the same time if we get a bit of rain.

?We have a secure place to store the seed on the farm and I?m really looking forward to evaluating how it grows in my own farm environment.?

Mr Adams said he was not really looking for a yield advantage, as such.

He said he was looking more to see what chemical advantage there was in using it, and if there?s less spraying and better weed control.

MECKERING grower John Snooke said he was expecting to take delivery of his GM canola seed from Canola Breeders WA later this week.

Mr Snooke, who also farms in Cunderdin, said he would be ready to plant the seed soon after it arrived, possibly even this weekend.

?When the seed arrives it will go in the ground quick,? he said.

Mr Snooke said he wanted to see common sense and reality guide the GM debate, not politics, and was looking forward to seeing how his GM crop performed first hand.

?Let?s get on with the real business of adopting a globally proven and endorsed technology that will bring advantages to WA?s farmers and environment,? he said.

?And let?s move on from the web of political plays that seek to deny choice and impose an ideology on WA and its farmers.?

East Mt Barker grower Ken Drummond said he was growing GM canola on his farm this season, because he wanted to take advantage of the technology.

?We need another tool in our tool box help in fight against weeds, ryegrass and radish in particular,? he said.

?These trials will help us assess if GM canola can helps us get away from using residual chemicals like atrazine.?

Mr Drummond had 25mm of rain three weeks ago and is hoping to start seeding the GM canola any time after May 1.

                                  PART 4

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SOURCE: The West Australian, Australia

AUTHOR: Jodie Thomson


DATE:   21.04.2009

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WA grain farmer Norm Jenzen knows his neighbours will be looking over the fence with added interest this winter.

As one of 17 farmers involved in the State?s first commercial-sized trials of genetically modified canola, he is prepared for his trial site to be under close scrutiny from neighbours, the farming fraternity and even the broader community.

He plans to sow Roundup Ready canola, which was delivered late last week to his Cunderdin property, as soon as the rains arrive.

Large-scale trials, including 17 farmer sites and three Department of Agriculture plots, are expected to be planted in coming weeks, covering a total of 850ha.

The trials have been the subject of intense debate since the State Government announced late last year it would exempt the commercial trials from a State-wide ban on GM crop production.

Opponents warn the trials will lead to contamination of conventional crops, potentially threatening export markets which remain wary of the product. But proponents argue GM canola has been grown for years in the exporting countries of Canada and the US, while more recently NSW and Victoria have moved into commercial production.

?I hear the debate all the time,? Mr Jenzen said. ?It?s going to be a hot topic for the next 12 months. I say, let?s try it, let?s debate it and see what happens at the end of the day.?

The canola has a modified gene that makes it resistant to the herbicide Roundup, with the technology developed by multi-national company Monsanto.

Mr Jenzen hopes it will allow him to better control weeds and reduce his chemical use, ultimately improving his bottom line.

?I?m looking at it from an economic viewpoint, it has got to stack up and whether it does, hopefully we will know by the end of the year,? he said.

?We have seen it in America and in Canada but we have got to see how it works in our own backyard and in our own climate.?

His neighbours have been informed of the 46ha trial.



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