Commercial GM crops for WA?

(L to R) Terry James, Vice-President, James Richardson International, Canada, and Keith Alcock of the Genetically Modified Canola Technical Working Group.

The 2002 Agribusiness Crop Updates in Perth recently featured major presentations on a variety of grower concerns including pre-harvest sprouting; herbicide resistance; the emergence of Diamondback moth and the future of genetically modified crops, specifically canola. Frost has also been a big issue in the west, as well as elsewhere. These issues are reflected in the following Ground Cover reports. Crop Updates 2002 were hosted by the Department of Agriculture and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

THE LIKELIHOOD of Western Australia supporting the commercial production of genetically modified (GM) canola crops was a hot topic at the 2002 Agribusiness Crop Updates in Perth recently.

Crop Improvement Institute Director Keith Alcock said the canola industry recognised GM production and marketing benefits, particularly over the longer term, through 'designer' canolas producing higher-value, 'healthier' or more nutritious oils.

On the other hand, the industry also recognised grower concerns over short-term market access and price issues.

Mr Alcock said the experience of Canadian producers was that farming and community concerns could be overcome.

"The canola industry fully endorses the importance of protecting the integrity of both GM and non-GM production systems. However, it believes that the means to this end lies not in GM-free zones, but the development of separate paths-to-market for GM and non-GM canola," Mr Alcock said.

"All levels of the industry are cooperating to identify the practicalities of segregation and identity preservation on-farm and in the supply chain. A draft Code of Practice has also been produced."

Mr Alcock said the GM Canola Technical Working Group had been active in understanding the farming systems issues and ensuring that local concerns were addressed.

He said the Working Group incorporated key organisations involved in canola production, handling and management, and liaised with an eastern states counterpart to ensure nationwide coverage.

"The Code of Practice will stand the WA canola industry in good stead as markets move to demand higher levels of quality assurance and segregation. The industry will be poised to capitalise on GM or non-GM products in the marketplace," Mr Alcock said.

"It is clear that the industry would not wish to move forward with GM canola unless the consumer safety and environmental safety of GM canola are established.

"The Working Group is confident that the comprehensive regulatory review and control processes on field trials, commercial release and product labelling will guarantee safety."

Contact: Mr Keith Alcock 08 9368 3300