WHILE this year's crops are only just going in, graingrowers are being advised to start preparing for the 2021 season if they want to use genetically-modified technology.
Grain Producers SA vice-chairman Adrian McCabe says croppers need to start researching GM varieties and trial data because they may need to give pre-order indications to seed companies as early as next month.
"Growers will have to undertake a stewardship program before they can accept GM seed, but they may still need to give an indication if they plan to grow GM," he said.
Croppers wanting to grow GM canola must complete a free accreditation course.
Bayer, which distributes Roundup Ready canola technologies to resellers, said the accreditation process was an important part of the company's stewardship program to ensure farmers were appropriately trained and understood their obligations for sowing the technology.
"Australia's regulatory system is one of the most robust and rigorous in the world," a Bayer spokesperson said.
"Industry bodies, as well as regulatory authorities, help us set guidelines and requirements for growing our products.
"We work with these bodies to ensure responsible management of our technology and support long-term viability for the canola industry."
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Farmers must sign a License and Stewardship Agreement once they have completed accreditation, which at the moment is only offered online while COVID-19 restrictions remain.
Bayer also has information on its website to help promote the longevity of glyphosate and key considerations for farmers to manage coexistence and segregation.
"Bayer will communicate with SA farmers and industry on the availability of accreditation courses ahead of the 2021 season," it said.
Mr McCabe strongly encouraged graingrowers to undertake accreditation, even if they didn't plan to grow GM canola.
"Even if your council appeals the lifting of the moratorium, get accreditation anyway - one day the need may arise," he said.
"Attendees get all the new information on the technology and how to grow canola to get the best yields.
"The stewardship program also teaches you how to most-safely apply RoundUp to avoid chemical resistance.
"And if you are opposed to GM technology altogether, the courses will put your mind at ease for any concerns you may have about your neighbour growing it."
GLYPHOSATE USED WITH CAUTION
HAMLEY Bridge farmer Adrian McCabe also crops at Grenfell in NSW, where he grows Nuseed's GM canola variety Xseed Raptor.
He was already preparing to sow some RR canola on his SA property next year.
"If any SA grower plans to use RR canola next year, they need to use gramoxone as the double knock this season because they need to have any glyphosate resistance under control," he said.
"In SA, we are lucky because we can use gramoxone on weeds in our legume phase.
"In NSW, they have pH soils which don't work well with legumes so glyphosate resistance is becoming a problem."
Mr McCabe said developments in GM technology had resulted in new generations of RR canola varieties with stack traits to assist in weed control.
"There are new varieties coming out every year because of GM, with promises of improvements in either yield or oil," he said.
"Yes, GM canola can be expensive, with an average $35 a tonne dock for growing it, but hopefully the yields make it worthwhile.
"If growers have RoundUp resistance, this initially might not be for them, but the stack traits technology coming through might one day be of assistance."
Long-time GM championer and former University of Adelaide plant breeding professor Andy Barr agreed there was so much potential to improve crop varieties, but had "mixed feelings" about the progress of GM.
"I have been convinced for a very long time that GM technology poses very little risk to the public and the environment - the science was resolved long ago, but unfortunately the debate dragged on way longer than it should have because of the anti-GM lobby," he said.
I fear GM technologies may not be applied to their full potential for some of our important crops as one of the possible solutions to cropping issues... because of anti-GM sentiment."
"GM technology has been researched since the 1980s, the first commercial varieties were released in 1994 and so plant breeders and scientists were excited about the potential of GM to solve many intractable genetic problems.
"But the anti-GM lobby has successfully stalled the technology for so long that investment in some crops has dried up and now companies are looking to invest in the next big thing, like CRISPR DNA technology which can be classed as GM-free.
"I fear GM technologies may not be applied to their full potential for some of our important crops as one of the possible solutions to cropping issues, such as heat stress, drought and frost tolerance, because of anti-GM sentiment."
The Barr family crops at Pinery in the Wakefield Plains Council area, where Mr Barr didn't expect a push to keep the moratorium, but he will watch the debate in council with interest.
He said they were not planning to grow RoundUp Ready canola anyway.
"Glyphosate is such a pivotal part of our no-till system, that I am not keen to use any more of it than we already are," he said.
"But there are other GM technologies, such as the CSIRO's Omega-3 canola, that are of interest. If there's a good price on offer for that variety, then we will seriously consider growing that."
SA'S RECENT GM TIMELINE
- May 2020 - GM decision shift concerns councils
- April 2020 - GM legislation expected to pass within weeks
- April 2020 - Greens move to reinstate GM crop ban
- March 2020 - SA Best to introduce GM Bill
- February 2020 - Govt ready to introduce GM Bill
- December 2019 - GM legislation blocked
- December 2019 - State government introduces legislation to remove the GM moratorium
- November 2019 - Disallowance motion blocks government efforts to lift the GM moratorium
- October 2019 - Regulations to restrict the statewide GM moratorium to only KI
- August 2019 - Government signals its intentions to lift the GM crop ban
- February 2019 - Independent review finds GM ban has cost SA farmers $33m
- September 2018 - Government announces independent review
- November 2017 - GM ban is extended to 2025
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