Council to broaden biotech understanding

Image of chickpea shoot tissue cultures in a jar

The new Council hopes to raise awareness of the full range
of biotechnologies, including tissue culture as shown here.
These chickpea shoots were derived from crosses between
wild and cultivated species as a stepping stone to getting
useful genes from wild relatives into cultivated varieties.

A new organisation to represent agricultural biotechnology in Australia was recently launched at Parliament House in Canberra, as part of a two-day ‘Science meets Parliament’ event.

The GRDC has partnered with AusBiotech, CropLife Australia and the National Farmers’ Federation to create the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA).

The Council supersedes Agrifood Awareness Australia, which focused solely on GM technology, and will better represent all research that comes under the biotechnology umbrella.

The joint industry initiative aims to provide science-based information that increases public awareness of and encourages informed decision-making about biotechnology – not just GM.

In particular, the Council – headquartered in Canberra – is charged with placing biotechnology into context as an important suite of technologies necessary for lifting productivity in Australian agriculture.

ABCA chair Claude Gauchat says biotechnology has a crucial role to play in global food security. “The world’s farming sector is seeking to double food production to meet the food and nutritional requirements of the growing global population,” Mr Gauchat says. “There is an imperative to encourage and develop tools and technologies that could aid farmers in producing more with less.”

AusBiotech chief executive officer Dr Anna Lavelle has been appointed non-executive director of ABCA.

Dr Lavelle says improvements to Australian food, feed and fibre production enabled by biotechnology mean benefits for farmers and consumers.

“Biotechnology is helping farmers to protect their crops from pests and diseases, which increases both yields and the supply of food,” Dr Lavelle says.

She says biotechnology can also assist in reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint through reduced use of chemicals, such as pesticides.

The Council’s co-patrons are former deputy Prime Minister of Australia John Anderson and former CSIRO chair and Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria Laureate Professor Adrienne Clarke.

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