The Gene Scene: The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) is an industry initiative established to increase public awareness of, and encourage informed debate and decision-making about, gene technology.
Australia notches up 20 years of GM cropping
Australia is celebrating a very successful 20 years of GM crop use this year. This achievement has been documented in a report titled Adoption and Impact of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops in Australia: 20 Years’ Experience.
The economic gains seen by Australia’s cotton and canola growers as a result of GM crop use include $1.37 billion worth of extra income and an additional 226,000 tonnes of canola that would not have been grown if conventional crops had been used.
Environmentally, the cultivation of GM crops has led to more sustainable use of crop-protection products, with a reduction of 22 million kilograms of (chemical) product used; a saving of nearly 27 million litres of fuel use; and 71.5 million kilograms less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, the report says.
The cotton industry continues to build on the back of GM cotton varieties. This year Australian cotton growers became the first in the world to be able to access a third generation of insect-resistant GM cotton. Bollgard® 3 contains a third protein, known as Vip3A, in addition to the Bt proteins found in Bollgard II®. Having three proteins increases the longevity of the technology as each protein has a different mode of action, which makes it increasingly difficult for the Helicoverpa pest to develop resistance to the GM variety.
The report was prepared by Graham Brookes, founding director of PG Economics, an independent UK-based organisation, and commissioned by CropLife Australia. PG Economics undertakes the international assessment of GM crops every year, and the Australian experience has been derived from that.
Agricultural innovation inquiry report tabled
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry tabled its Smart farming – inquiry into agricultural innovation report in May.
The report included findings in relation to the regulation of agricultural biotechnology, the regulation of low-level presence of GM material, and the public perception of gene technology.
Evidence presented to the inquiry included that the principal impediments to the more widespread adoption of gene technology in Australia are the lack of a nationally consistent regulatory approach and state-based moratoria discouraging private investment and R&D.
Environmental group in the spotlight
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment has handed down its report on the administration and transparency of the Register of Environmental Organisations (the Register) and its effectiveness supporting communities to take practical action to improve the environment.
The report says stakeholders expressed concern about instances of illegal and unlawful activity by individuals either associated with or supported by environmental groups, which benefit from tax-free donations.
The actions of Greenpeace activists who vandalised taxpayer-funded CSIRO GM wheat field trials in the ACT were given as an example.
Committee chair and Nationals MP, the Hon. John Cobb, said two Greenpeace employees trespassed on Crown land at CSIRO’s Ginninderra Field Station to destroy GM crop trials because they feared the research would show the product’s safety and environmental efficacy.
The committee has recommended sanctions against groups listed for tax deductions that break the law repeatedly.
Novel Laureates call for Greenpeace to back off
One hundred and seven Nobel Laureates have signed an open letter to Greenpeace, governments around the world and the United Nations that calls on Greenpeace to stop its campaign against Vitamin-A-fortified GM Golden Rice, and agricultural biotechnology in general. The letter calls on governments to reject the Greenpeace campaign and to accelerate the access of all growers to the tools of modern biology.
Golden Rice has the potential to alleviate death and disease caused by vitamin A deficiency, which largely affects the world’s poor. The World Health Organization estimates 250 million people suffer from vitamin A deficiency, including 40 per cent of children in the developing world under the age of five. UNICEF reports that up to two million preventable deaths occur annually as a result. Despite this, Greenpeace has led a campaign against Golden Rice for more than a decade.
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