The Gene Scene
GMOs and gene technology in Australia
By Paula Fitzgerald, Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited
The Canola Council of Canada recently funded a study investigating the management practices and costs of managing canola volunteers in following crops. Undertaken by Serecon Management Consulting, the study compared the management of volunteer canola after conventional canola as well as three herbicide tolerant systems - two genetically modified (GM) and one conventionally-bred variety.
The survey compared management practices, costs of control, impacts and grower perceptions.
The key findings include:
The research found that management practices are unique to grower, field conditions and weed spectrum and because of this any comparisons are complicated by the fact that growers often plant multiple systems (conventional and GM) and rotate these systems from year-to-year.
Another factor inhibiting comparisons is that there are many combinations of subsequent crops, target weeds, available herbicides and tillage options. Weed management, according to the findings, seems to have more to do with the subsequent crop and the spectrum of weeds to be controlled than the previous canola system.
Western Canadian farmers have rapidly adopted herbicide-tolerant canola varieties since their introduction in 1995. In 2004, more than 90 per cent of the area in western Canada was sown to herbicide-tolerant varieties.
For more information: www.canola-council.org/PDF/Herbicide_ Tolerant_Fact_Sheet.pdf#zoom=100
[Photo: Bayer GM canola seed pods]
The American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and the National Cotton Council of America have issued a joint media statement in recognition of the planting of the one-billionth acre of GM crops. This milestone comes nine years after the first commercial varieties were planted in 1996 and is equivalent to approximately 404.7 million hectares.
In comparison, Australia, which only grows GM cotton varieties, has planted less than two million hectares of GM crops since 1996 (with the area dedicated to GM varieties reaching approximately 300,000 hectares in the last cotton season).
For more information: www.soygrowers.com/biotech/photos.htm
The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) has recently granted a licence for researchers at Queensland"s Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (QDPI&F) to undertake limited and controlled trials of GM bovine herpesvirus vaccines in cattle. In granting the licence, the OGTR concluded that the limited release of these GM vaccines does not pose significant risks to human health and safety or the environment.
Research began in the 1980s on vaccines for bovine respiratory disease (BRD) of feedlot cattle, with projects involving the use of gene technology to achieve this aim funded since 1998. According to the research team, a GM vaccine is seen as the best approach to BRD because of the complexity of the disease, which can include four viral and three bacterial pathogens.
A non-GM vaccine for one of these viral pathogens, Bovine herpesvirus 1 (BoHV-1), is already available in Australia and is marketed under the brand name "Rhinogard" for feedlot cattle.
The ultimate goal of the research involving gene technology is to develop a four-in-one vaccine addressing all four of the viral causative agents of BRD. The research is particularly relevant to the feedlot industry, where viral infection can lead to immunosuppression and then bacterial infection. However, it is being undertaken with the entire cattle industry in mind.
The QDPI&F has been granted a licence to test up to 19 genetically modified (GM) bovine herpesvirus (BoHV-1) vaccines in a limited number of cattle under controlled conditions. QDPI&F proposes to conduct the GM vaccines trial in a registered animal containment facility in Queensland over the next five years. The trial will involve the inoculation of up to 180 cattle.
This information has been sourced from the OGTR"s Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan for DIR 050/2004 "Vaccination of cattle with recombinant bovine herpesvirus vaccines".
For more information: www.ogtr.gov.au
Agrifood 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.