Australian oilseed producers are being urged to embrace gene technology, or face becoming globally uncompetitive.
"I see plant technology as the next Silicon Valley, producing an explosion of knowledge and progress in the same way as the computer industry," Ken Reed, Director of the Queensland Agricultural Bio-technology Centre, told a recent Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) forum in Sydney, partially supported by growers through the GRDC.
"The stakes are high, and it is a global game of high rollers, but if we are not competitive in it, we will be mortgaging the farm and our children will pay," Professor Reed said. "Intellectual property will soon be the most valuable input into agriculture."
Gene technology and oilseeds
At the same venue, oilseeds specialists Allan Green of CSIRO Plant Industry and Phil Salisbury of Agriculture Victoria and Melbourne University predicted that gene technology would continue to drive restructuring in the oilseeds industry.
Drs Green and Salisbury, who recently completed a report for the AOF on the impact of the new technology, said that, internationally, gene technology had so far produced more than 30 new experimental oil and meal product types in different oilseeds species, many of them with potential for Australia.
"Many of Australia's competitors in the world oilseed trade are now well established as suppliers of high-quality, genetically modified oilseeds," the report said. "Without access to these new products, the Australian industry is unlikely to remain competitive in the longer term and likely to be excluded as a supplier into new product markets."
Drs Green and Salisbury endorsed a claim that agriculture is about to experience a revolution through the application of biotechnology. They said developers of genetically modified oilseeds with value-added traits could choose from a number of mechanisms to capture some of their value, such as seed royalties, technology licence fees and "closed loop" production and marketing arrangements.
To remain internationally competitive, Australia needed to maintain excellent oilseed breeding programs while forming appropriate research and commercial linkages with the owners of key technologies.
Contact: Professor Ken Reed 07 3365 4960
Dr Allan Green 02 6246 5154
Dr Philip Salisbury 03 9884 8068