GM co-existence no problem for cross-border grower

GM co-existence no problem for cross-border grower

Cropping
NO ISSUES: Frances grower Wayne Hawkins crops on both sides of the SA-Vic border and is growing GM Safflower in Vic for the first time this season. He said there has been no co-existence issues, with the farm following its customary strict cleaning procedures.

NO ISSUES: Frances grower Wayne Hawkins crops on both sides of the SA-Vic border and is growing GM Safflower in Vic for the first time this season. He said there has been no co-existence issues, with the farm following its customary strict cleaning procedures.

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FRANCES farmer Wayne Hawkins, who owns land on both sides of the SA-Vic border, likens the adoption of genetically-modified crops, and associated technology, to that of a new machinery purchase.

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FRANCES farmer Wayne Hawkins, who owns land on both sides of the SA-Vic border, likens the adoption of genetically-modified crops, and associated technology, to that of a new machinery purchase.

"Every time you buy something new, you've got new technology and new features - this is no different," he said.

"Breeders are out there trying to get better disease resistance, better yields and better genetics into the crops we grow.

"Every time a new variety comes out it's better than the last one so it's no different to new machinery or new cars with better features. This is just the next step."

As the parliamentary back and forth about GM crops continues - the state government and SA Best have both introduced new bills, after previous regulation changes were blocked and a legislation attempt was voted down - Mr Hawkins offers a valuable grower perspective into the GM debate, having grown 88 hectares of high oleic safflower near Neuarpurr, Vic, and managing it alongside his non-GM carrot seed, wheat, bean and lucerne seed crops - grown in both Vic and SA.

The GM version of the oilseed crop was released commercially in 2018 and the oil can be used in the manufacture of plastics, lubricants and cosmetics.

It is also being investigated as an alternative to palm oil.

Mr Hawkins said there had been no hygiene or co-existence issues, with the farm following its usual thorough cleaning practices to avoid contamination.

"There's GM crops and non-GM crops grown in close proximity right around the world," he said.

"In normal circumstances you go from one crop to another crop, a clover crop to a bean crop or wheat crop to something else, you've got to clean out everything then and this is no different."

Mr Hawkins' safflower will be ready to harvest in a matter of weeks and with the local seed cleaner located on the SA side of the border, and uncertainty surrounding SA's GM ban, he faces the prospect of transporting the seed to Rutherglen, Vic, to be cleaned - a seven-hour trip.

Reducing pesticide use is another reason SA should allow GM technology, according to Mr Hawkins.

"The ideal thing would be to have crops you don't have to spray, don't get pest insects in and to have wheat crops with so much vigour they get going and smother out all the weeds," he said.

"Those are the sort of crops farmers would love to have and if we can get that through GM technology then let's have it."

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