Grains Research and Development

Date: 18.01.2016

Gene technology unites and divides outlook

Author: Larissa Mullot

Logo of Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) is a joint initiative of AusBiotech, CropLife Australia, the GRDC and the National Farmers’ Federation. ABCA has been established to help shape a new era for Australian agriculture by encouraging informed debate on biotechnology through the dissemination of credible, balanced, science-based information. Through the creation and sharing of research and knowledge, ABCA’s work aims to place biotechnology and gene technology into context as another invaluable innovation for Australian agriculture, ensuring that science guides public policy for the future of farming.

GM wheat a needed tool

Winner of the 2014 World Food Prize Dr Sanjaya Rajaram says GM technology will be a necessary tool if global food demand is to be met.

A wheat scientist in India and Mexico and former head of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Dr Rajaram has led the development of 480 new wheat varieties to date.

Speaking at the recent GRDC-supported International Wheat Conference 2015 in Sydney, Dr Rajaram said global wheat production needs to increase from 700 million to one billion tonnes to feed the world’s population by 2050, and that conventional or hybrid breeding will not be enough.

Dr Rajaram gained his PhD in wheat breeding through the University of Sydney’s Narrabri Research Station in the 1960s.

In Australia, there are 10 field trial licences and one application in the pipeline for gene technology research involving wheat or wheat and barley, according to the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (Table 1).

 Reference Developer
Modification
 Status
Table 1 GM wheat and/or GM wheat and barley field trials in Australia.
DIR 142
Victorian Government
Nitrogen use efficiency and water use efficiency
Field trial application submitted
DIR 130
Murdoch University
Improved grain quality
Current. Field trial licence.
DIR 128
University of Adelaide
Abiotic stress tolerance (drought, salt, metal and nitrogen use efficiency) or increased micronutrient uptake (iron). Current. Field trial licence.
DIR 122
Victorian Government
Improved yield, particularly under drought conditions. Current. Field trial licence.
DIR 117
CSIRO Altered grain composition (starch), or enhanced nutrient (nitrogen) use efficiency. Current. Field trial licence.
DIR 112
CSIRO Altered grain composition (starch), or enhanced nutrient (nitrogen) use efficiency. Current. Field trial licence.
DIR 111
CSIRO Altered grain composition, nutrient utilisation efficiency, disease resistance or stress tolerance. Field trials underway. This licence also includes small-scale animal and human volunteer nutritional trials.
DIR 102
University of Adelaide
Abiotic stress tolerances (heat, cold or salt) or enhanced nutrient uptake (nitrogen, phosphorus or zinc) and utilisation. Current. Field trial licence.
DIR 080/2007
Victorian Government
Drought tolerance
Current. Field trial licence.
DIR 077/2007
University of Adelaide
Abiotic stress tolerance and increased beta-glucan levels. Current. Field trial licence.
DIR 071/2006
Victorian Government
Drought tolerance Current. Field trial licence.

 SOURCE: OGTR

SA grain growers GM petition

Grain Producers South Australia (GPSA) has started a petition for lifting the moratorium on growing GM crops in SA. The petition highlights the need for freedom of grower choice on variety selection and will be delivered to the SA Minister for Agriculture, Leon Bignell.

GPSA chief executive officer Darren Arney says growers are frustrated that their farming options have been restricted.

Mr Bignell also says the SA Government does not have solid economic data to support its decision to keep SA free of GM crops: “I do not think we have all the evidence in at this stage … (but) it gives us a real selling point that we are different to other states of Australia and we are different to many … around the world,” he says.

Community attitudes to gene technology

A national survey commissioned by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator that explored consumer attitudes to gene technology has found that there are more people who support genetically modified organisms (GMOs) than who oppose them.

Other key findings included the following.

  • Most respondents (69 per cent) believed that biotechnology would improve our way of life in the future, while 46 per cent believed that GMOs specifically would improve our way of life in the future
  • Most support for rejection of GM food and crops is conditional on regulation or scientific evidence on safety. Only 15 per cent indicated they would never change their anti-GM stance

The report authors noted: “GM is a low-level issue of general background noise for many people, indicating that they pick up the general thread of topics without knowing particulars. This is in line with the broader community trend relating to information overload and a narrowing of attention to only those things that are deemed personally relevant, or have sufficient profile in the media that they follow.”

The survey also found that those who do not support new technologies are more likely to oppose GM foods and those who support new technologies are more likely to favour them.

More information:

IWC2015

'Feeding the world without with wheat without using genetic modification will lead to food shortages says World Food Prize winner' – ABC news

www.grainproducerssa.com.au

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