GM stances vary as SA govt pushes on

GM stances vary as SA govt pushes on


With consultation on lifting the GM ban nearing the end, the debate continues on whether co-existence is possible in SA.

NO CASE: Grain Producers SA vice-chairman Adrian McCabe, Hamley Bridge, also farms at Grenfell, NSW, where he says GM canola contamination has not occurred.

NO CASE: Grain Producers SA vice-chairman Adrian McCabe, Hamley Bridge, also farms at Grenfell, NSW, where he says GM canola contamination has not occurred.

CONTAMINATION concerns and potential damage to SA's 'clean and green' reputation remain atop the list of concerns for those that oppose lifting the state's moratorium on genetically-modified crops.

The SA government announced plans to lift the GM ban last month, with two more weeks of statutory consultation to go. Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone encouraged anyone with an interest to get involved, but still intended to introduce the new regulations in time for farmers to plan for the next season.

National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia general manager Mark Gower said their members had made submissions against lifting the ban and was hopeful the government would "listen to its constituents and not the pro-GM lobby".

"They need to look beyond that narrow lens and consider all the social, health, commercial and reputation ramifications of lifting the ban," he said.

"On a commercial basis, we have a very distinct advantage over our competition, why would the government just throw it away?"

Mr Gower did not believe co-existence was possible due to cross-contamination.

"You only have to look at Canada and the United States, where more than 90 per cent of the canola grown is now GM," he said.

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This is despite minimal contamination cases experienced interstate since GM production was permitted.

Australian Organic chief executive officer Niki Ford was not aware of any contamination events in Qld.

But the industry had to ensure preventative measures were in place, she said.

Ms Ford said due to these risk management measures in place, there was no evidence of different pricing for certified organic produce from state to state.

Vic Wimmera agronomist Simon Mock, Clovercrest Consulting, was also unaware of any crop contamination in his region.

"GM canola has been in Vic for more than 10 years now and I am unaware of any impacts on organic or non-GM canola growers," he said.

"Growers, for a long time now, have been good at keeping different varieties and crop types separate."

Mr Mock, who is visiting SA next week for the Hart Field Day, also highlighted that GM canola uptake had not been huge among his clients, "maybe 10 per cent".

"In the early days, when GM canola became available, the varieties didn't yield as well as they do today because there hadn't been a lot of breeding undertaken within Australia," he said.

"Today, they are yielding just as well, if not better than non-GM varieties, but some people haven't forgotten that initial disappointment."

Mr Mock said the technology fee and seed price had also been a deterrent, along with a lack of segregations, a lower price at harvest compared to non-GM canola and concerns about RoundUp-resistant ryegrass.

"Those that do use GM canola though have better weed control through using glyphosate, which takes pressure of using less effective, potentially more damaging, pesticides," he said.

"Growers can also sow early without having weeds reducing yield potential."

Grain Producers SA vice-chairman Adrian McCabe, Hamley Bridge, also farms at Grenfell, NSW.

He says growing GM canola has been a great tool in managing weeds and reducing chemical use.

"It reduces my chemical use by one-third. I've used one mode of action, glyphosate, at a 1.8-litre rate and that is all I have used on that paddock this year," he said.

"I haven't had to use a variety of other chemicals to reduce my weed burden in this crop rotation."

There may be a premium for non-GM canola, but that exists everywhere, not just in SA, the moratorium has no affect on that. - ADRIAN McCABE

He said the timely use of glyphosate in RR canola had filled a gap where some chemicals had begun to fail.

As a grain and graze farmer, Mr McCabe plans to sow RR canola early, graze it until the end of June, then spray it with RoundUp to kill any remaining weeds and let it grow out until harvest.

He is also excited about the prospect of new GM traits, such as disease and insect resistance, better water use efficiency, frost and heat tolerance, increased nutrition and yield improvements.

"This may be the only way forward in research to achieve that," he said. "With GM being such a precise way of genetic engineering, they are able to provide new improved traits year-on-year. GPSA wants farmers to have the ability to choose that, if it suits their operation."

Mr McCabe said contamination had been a non-issue as growers, agronomists and suppliers had to gain accreditation before getting access to seed.

"As part of the guidelines to grow GM canola, we have to learn how to handle it, the protocols in place, how to make sure it's contained where it's grown, proper chemical use, volunteer management and delivery requirements," he said.

"I do not know of any contamination cases arising from growing GM canola. It just doesn't happen.

"As to the economic argument, which has been answered by the Mercado study and the independent Anderson report, yes there may be a premium for non-GM canola, but that exists everywhere, not just in SA - the moratorium has no affect on that."

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