Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.03.2000

Farmers on gene technology

Five people around a tractor

Agrifood Awareness Australia, of which GRDC is an active member, sent out a survey to 6,000 farmers on the Ground Cover mailing list. The survey was about biotechnology and GMOs and included one multi-part question about GMOs.

The key outcomes of the survey are a need for balanced, factual information, that presents both the 'yes' and 'no' cases on GMOs. Such information will allow farmers to make an informed decision, both as consumers and also as producers. The survey revealed that:

  • 2/3 of farmers will consider growing GM crops if there is a market to sell to
  • 77 per cent of farmers required more information before producing GM crops
  • farmers can see the potential benefits of the technology in improved yields, environmental benefits, lower chemical use and sustainable rotations
  • disease- and pest-resistant varieties are a major benefit farmers would like GM crops to deliver
  • the potential to breed out crop imperfections and improved soil inputs also rated highly amongst farmers
  • the majority felt the benefits partially or fully outweighed the risks.

Concerns

However, farmers were concerned that the GMO process was controlled by multinational companies, leading to higher seed costs. The other main area of concern was the potential for a consumer backlash, and the impact this may have on market access, both in Australia and internationally.

GMO safety was a major issue, with almost 70 per cent of farmers feeling it was partially safe, the doubt relating to potential side-effects that may emerge in the future.

Independent information and advice were preferred to that of industry and government.

The Survey Q&A

The options were to answer 'true', 'false', or 'don't know'.

  1. Gene technology may involve moving a gene from one plant to another?
    True - this can be achieved through traditional plant breeding as well as through gene technology.
  2. Gene technology does not involve moving genes from one species to another?
    False - gene technology allows genes to be moved between species in a way not previously possible.
  3. Genes used in gene technology are absorbed into the body when the modified products are consumed?
    False - genes used in gene technology are the same as other genes and are not absorbed by the body.
  4. A gene is made up of DNA?
    True - all genes are made up of DNA.
  5. The basic chemicals in DNA from plants are different from those in DNA from animals?
    False - DNA from all organisms is made up of the same set of 4 chemicals.
  6. It is not safe to eat genes?
    False - we all consume and metabolise many millions of genes with every meal.
  7. In the field, genes from conventional plants cannot be transferred to other plants?
    False - genes can move between conventional plants via pollen, provided they are compatible.
  8. In the field genes from genetically modified plants cannot be transferred to other plants?
    False - genes can move from genetically modified plants to compatible relatives via pollen.
  9. Genetically modified plants such as cotton and canola are reproductively stronger than conventional plants?
    False - genetically modified plants have similar reproductive characteristics to conventional plants.
  10. Chromosomes from mammals contain a large number of genes?
    True - each mammalian chromosome has around a thousand genes.
  11. A gene can be responsible for a single trait?
    True - a single gene can be responsible for a single trait in animals and plants.

If you would like more information please contact the AAA on: Phone: 02 6273 3855 Fax: 02 6273 2331 Email: aaa@afaa.com.au