INTEREST in the contentious issue of GM crops was highlighted last week when a Lucerne Australia symposium on the topic drew a packed house.
The aim of the symposium, held at Keith Institute and attended by more than 150 people, was for an objective discussion to enable industry to decide what may be the best options for the Australian lucerne seed industry in the future.
A keynote speaker from the US was Forage Genetics International vice president Bill Knipe. FGI is one of the world's leading lucerne seed providers.
"In the late 1970s and early 1980s I didn't know one plant breeder who thought GM would ever work from a technical point of view," he said.
"By the mid 1980s, after I saw the first GM lucerne, I became a believer."
Mr Knipe said there had been a rapid uptake of GM technology since the mid 1990s.
In 1996 there were 1.7 million hectares of GM crops, that grew to 52.6mha in 2001 and 170mha in 2012.
By far, the biggest area sown to GM crops is in the US, with almost 70mha, followed by Brazil with 36.6mha. Australia has the 13th highest plantings of GM crops in the world, at 0.7mha.
Mr Knipe said GM crops were deregulated in the US in 2005.
"Deregulation means that, by law, these crops are proven to be safe and can be used without restrictions," he said.
But views of another speaker from the US were opposite.
Geertson Seed Farms' Phillip Geertson was the lead plaintiff in a court case that forced the US Department of Agriculture to do an environmental impact statement on Roundup Ready lucerne.
*Full report in Stock Journal, November 21 issue, 2013.