Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.12.2004

GM crops in the US: how they performCoexistence: a checklistCoexistence principles further developed in the UK

top of page

By Paula Fitzgerald, Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited

The 2003 performance of GM crops in the United States has been the subject of a study by the National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy. Six commodities were evaluated, and four impacts were considered in compiling the results - changes in production value, volume, costs and pesticide use.

The study claims that in 2003 grower incomes were increased by $US1.9 billion, crop yields were boosted by 2.4 million tonnes and pesticide use was reduced by about 21,000 tonnes as a result of GM varieties. Some of the findings are outlined in the table below. Of those listed, only GM insect resistant cotton is commercially grown in Australia.

The US represents 63 percent of the global GM crop area.

The National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy is a private, non-profit research organisation based in Washington DC. It was established in 1984 and focuses on four program areas: biotechnology, pesticides, US farm and food policy, and international trade and development.

For more information: www.ncfap.org

A coexistence checklist has been compiled for growers by the University of Minnesota in the US. Coexistence is defined as the ability of farmers to provide customers with a choice between GM, non-GM and organic crops and products.

The checklist below outlines some of the best management practices that GM and non- GM farmers can use to minimise pollen flow, co-mingling and other contamination.

Before you grow:

This document was compiled by James Riddle, Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems, University of Minnesota.

Mr Riddle has been an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst, author and consumer. He was founding chair of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) and co-author of the IFOAM/IOIA International Organic Inspection Manual.

For more information: www.wkkf.org/Pubs/FoodRur/BiotechBMPs03.final_00253_03862.pdf

According to a report released by UK-based PG Economics, there are five key principles to ensure the successful coexistence of GM, organic and conventional crops in farming systems.

Graham Brooks, the author of the report titled "Co-existence of GM and non GM crops: current experience and key principles", said that if the five key principles listed below are adapted to local circumstances, on a crop-by-crop basis, effective coexistence can be achieved.

The five key principles are:

1. CONTEXT - determine the relative commercial and agronomic importance of different crop production systems based on planted area, production and economic value.

2. CONSISTENCY - Producers should be consistent in dealing with the adventitious presence of all unwanted material including GM, organic and conventional.

3. PROPORTIONALITY - All coexistence measures established should be proportionate, non discriminatory and science-based.

4. EQUITY (fairness) - Any economic liability provisions (that compensate non-GM growers for adventitious presence of GM) should be equally applicable to GM growers for adventitious presence of non-GM crops.

No one sector should be able to veto another - access and choice both ways.

5. PRACTICALITY - All coexistence measures should be based on legal, practical and scientific realities.

Previous reports by PG Economics have investigated on-farm experiences in Spain and North America, and found that successful coexistence between GM and non-GM crops has been possible without government involvement.

For more information: www.pgeconomics.co.uk

Agrifood Awareness AustraliaAgrifood Awareness Australia Limited is an industry initiative established to increase public awareness of, and encourage informed debate about, gene technology. The organisation is supported by three peak bodies, including the GRDC.