Looking ahead: supply chains and GM canola: developing an industry Code of Practice

THE INTRODUCTION of genetically modified (GM) crops will see fundamental changes in supply chains and their management. It is estimated that, in the short term (2-5 years), management will continue to be food-safety focused and aligned more towards market access (rather than capturing premiums).

However, over the medium term (5-10 years), there will be an increasing number of GM and non-GM segregations related to traits, with these traits valued by markets (and consumers) and likely to generate price premiums.

There's a need to ensure that the Australian grains industry can not only manage short-term market access issues, but also be in a position to take advantage of future opportunities to capture premiums. These will be for grain varieties with specific traits that are valued by markets and consumers.

First GM varieties for Oz

The first GM grain varieties - in the form of herbicide-tolerant canola - are likely to be introduced into commercial production in Australia in 2003. The key marketing issues immediately facing the industry are the need to implement a system that enables truthful labelling of a product for consumers; the co-existence of conventional, GM and organic production systems; and continued access for growers utilising different production systems to their target markets.

In response, the grains industry has established the Eastern Zone Gene Technology Grains Committee (EZGTGC). Represented are, among others, scientists, growers, the GRDC', bulk handlers, processors and the Commonwealth and State Governments. A representative from the Western Zone GTGC also participates in meetings of theEZGTGC, ensuring a national approach to supply chain management issues.

An important aspect of successfully managing the introduction of GM and other novel crops is ensuring coordination and cooperation between industry sectors. The EZGTGC provides a forum for communicating what different organisations are doing to prepare for the introduction of GM canol a, what issues remain outstanding and, importantly, for identifying actions to integrate each industry sector's supply chain management strategy. The expected outcome is to minimise disruption and costs to the Australian grains industry.

Code of practice

An important component of the EZGTGC's work is to develop an industry Code of Practice that covers seed production, on-farm management, and storage, handling and transport of GM crops up to the first stage of processing. The aim: to provide guidance to seed producers, growers, bulk handlers and others along the chain on the evidence needed to support product certification as GM or non-GM.

Over the next few months, the EZGTGC will establish the scope, objective and principles of a draft Code. To get the word out to the grains community, a whole-of-industry communications strategy on the contents of the Code and other aspects of the industry's strategy for supply chain management of GM canola is also in the pipeline.