Popularity of GM varieties difficult to gauge

Popularity of GM varieties difficult to gauge

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FEW of us expected to see great swathes of SA's farmland covered in genetically-modified canola or safflower in the first year since the state's moratorium on GM food crops was lifted.

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FEW of us expected to see great swathes of SA's farmland covered in genetically-modified canola or safflower in the first year since the state's moratorium on GM food crops was lifted.

Most farmers are unfamiliar with the technology and varietal performance, and want to see how the crop performs either in local trials or perhaps over the neighbour's fence. Many are simply happy to have the same tools in their weed control arsenal as their interstate counterparts, should they need it one day.

We'd love to know how farmers have found the accreditation process, if anyone has had difficulty accessing seed and the reasons growers are willing to give it a go.

But at this stage, it's very difficult to gauge the number of farmers who have made moves to add GM varieties into their rotation during 2021. Either very few producers are willing to try it, or very few producers are willing to talk to the media about trying it.

SA's ag community is incredibly generous with its time, allowing us to tell their stories and share many details about their operation and farming practices. Of course, there are those that would rather keep their name and business out of the media, while plenty more run for cover when the prospect of having their photo taken arises.

Related reading: Croppers urged to protect GM technology

But things are very different when we broach the topic of GM crops. For years, many graingrowers or agronomists have been happy to talk to us about just about everything - except GM.

I can fully appreciate why individuals might be reluctant to come out and voice their support for GM technology in the media. Many people don't enjoy being the centre of attention at the best of times - especially if that attention is coming from anti-GM advocates who have been incredibly vocal throughout the entire process.

As GrainProducers SA's campaign to give growers the choice to grow GM crops gained momentum, we saw more farmers join the chorus, but that seems to have changed now the ban is gone.

I hope the lines of communication between producers, farming groups, researchers and representative bodies are open, so knowledge about GM crops can be effectively shared.

After all, many farmers learn best from other farmers, and in order to ensure this new cropping tool is used effectively, that must continue.

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