Finding common ground crucial to GM

If the state governments decide to extend their moratoria on genetic modification (GM) technology in food crops early next year, there is no point in Australia ever allowing GM.

By the time the moratoria came up for review we would be almost 20 years behind our competitors in terms of development and would be forever playing catch-up.

This means the stakes are sky-high over the coming months, as decisions are made on the future of GM trial work.

The momentum for the introduction of GM appears to be building and there are clear benefits for growers if traits such as drought and salt tolerance can be added to varieties of staple cereal crops.

The crucial thing for the GM lobby is to be more inclusive than it has in the past and ensure they steer clear of the 'my way or the highway' approach that plagued the debate last time the issue was up for review.

Like it or not, the issue of co-existence has to be addressed, and as the anti-GM lobby has repeated ad infinitum, there can be no way that those wishing to remain GM free should be made to suffer due to contamination.

Likewise, those against the technology cannot hold up vague 'lost markets' and impossible AP levels as artificial barriers to prevent the introduction of the technology.

Currently, talk is centring on 0.9pc AP levels and that seems like a sensible option, with the only loss of market thus far within the organics sector.

The GM lobby must work with the organic industry to see if they can convince them of the sense of allowing a minute tolerance level which will allow all neighbouring businesses to co-exist successfully.

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READER COMMENTS

Billy
14/08/2007 6:50:52 PM

Congratulations David Crombie. Australian Farmers have stood and waited for a 'Leader' in this debate for so long, watching research for improved productivity pass them by. The facts now have shown, that the emotion displayed in previous discussions, is unwarranted, and Aussie Farmers have a lot of "catching-up" to do. Thanks David - keep ''Leading''.
Ex cotton farmer
15/08/2007 12:38:22 AM

GM cotton may have increased yields but over supply has keeped the price down. We are a isolated country with a large buffer zone we should use this to our advantage. Not all of the worlds markets want GM products. Our location will be our strength in a market place flooded with poor quality produce, and like cotton we all suffer with low prices. Why do we need GM? SOIL HEALTH and nutrition is the answer, this is the only real future for Austrailan Farmers.
Rational
15/08/2007 4:15:16 PM

When will the GM-Luddites acknowledge that Mendelian selection is also a form of Genetic Modification/Manipulation? Oilseed rape (Canola) is a foreign plant to Australia, so what additional danger can a GM variety pose to native flora? If a GM variety requires less chemical (insecticide, herbicide, fungicide or fertilizer), I think it is criminally irrational not to plant it.
rtuckwel
15/08/2007 7:18:12 PM

Everybody should read the Spring edition of The Diggers Club Magazine. There is no other scientific move that has been undertaken that has advanced with as little proper testing as the introduction of GM material - excepting, perhaps, the introduction of the Cane Toad. The only winners will be Monsanto and Bayer.
ggwagga
16/08/2007 6:20:42 AM

To suggest we need to catch up is absurd. One only has to catch up if you are being left behind. At present Australian farmers are a long way out in front of others countries that have contaminated their crops with GMOs. It is ludicrous to suggest that GMOs can coexist with conventional or organic crops – it's like wanting to be a little bit pregnant. Is the consumer crying out for GMO food – absolutely not so; the well informed consumer is steering well clear of them for good reason – they are not safe. In America the incidence of food allergies rose by 50% from 1997 to 2002 and has most probably risen considerably more since then. There must be considerably more futuristic vision demonstrated by farmer organisations and Government representatives. Someone at some stage thought it was a good idea to let some rabbits go, then the fox and starlings, cane toads, blackberries, etc, etc. We are at a point in what will soon become history, where there is an enormous risk of another major catastrophe – the release of the GMO Trojan horse. GMOs are dependent on an unsustainable production system. No combination of alternative fuels or systems for using them will allow farmers to continue using this high input, noxious chemical method of producing food/fibre crops. The production, harvest and distribution system will need more than hydrogen, bio-diesel, ethanol, recycled french-fry oil, solar electricity, wind power, or nuclear fission in order to continue in the future. So why commit to GMO crops that are highly dependent on the current oil energy system? Should the unthinkable and insanity prevail, permitting GMO crops to contaminate the seed bank, perish the thought of how food or fibre is going to be produced after sustainable varieties are contaminated and lost! Instead of peddling false hope with GMOs, there are a multitude of reasons scientists and agronomists must make a concerted effort on lowering food and fibre production inputs and eliminating the dependence on toxic chemicals and the ridiculous notion of using GMOs. It is widely acknowledged that toxic chemicals used at any stage in food production, are causing catastrophic ramifications on individuals health and the environment. Statistics on the incidence and myriad of cancer/s, hormone mimics and disrupters, neurological and antisocial behavioural problems witnessed daily, should be enough to caution the least observant. It is also acknowledged that these same toxic chemicals have an equally detrimental impact on soil biology, which in turn opens the door to a myriad of crop diseases and insect invasion; not to mention the devastation on aquatic life and water quality etc. There are safe and sustainable alternatives which don’t include GMOs. Those unconvinced should do a quick audit on the cost and number of chemical applications they now apply to crops as compared to that of years gone by; along with the number and intensity of diseases. Also estimate where your economic inputs are distributed within your community. Because a high percentage of farmer input dollars don’t stay local, rural communities are financially eroding and struggling. Add to this the potential of pitting neighbour against neighbour who may have unsuspectingly had his crop contaminated with GMOs, (as is happing in North America) will only further fragment the economic, social and environmental fabric of rural communities, leaving them in total disarray in times of need. The pure fantasy of GMOs reducing chemical usage and being environmentally friendly is a load of bull excrement. With this knowledge, why do some farmer representatives and politicians foolishly swallow the deceptive syrup exuded by those with a vested interest in contaminating our food supply further with noxious chemicals and GMOs? These representatives seem to deploy the same level of scrutiny as that of a drug addict quality checking their recent pernicious acquisition! It is also an utter fabrication to suggest that any crops have been genetically modified for thousands of years. As for hybrid crops, they too consistently fail to provide nutritionally complete food. As a farmer and a well informed consumer, I will never knowingly consume a product containing GMOs.
Pro GM Farmer
16/08/2007 7:56:56 AM

Australian farmers need and want access to GM technology, we should have the right to choose. If the state governments extend the moratorium Australian farmers and the environment will suffer. This is very plain and simple. The anti groups continue to misconstrue the debate with misguided information to play on the ill-informed fears. All we have to do is draw on cotton where the pesticide active ingredient applied per hectare has been reduced from 40kg/ha to just 0.4kg/ha through GM developments. The environment and farmer has won. The US is forecasting its largest corn crop ever, GM technology has played a key role in this achievement. The first generation technologies are currently herbicide but the next offer a plethora of new options including frost and drought tolerance. These are in the pipeline but need an assured pathway to market to drive research. Dairy farmers have come full circle because they can now see the economic benefit from GM technology developed in Victoria for bloat resistance pastures. As grain farmers we can segregate if there is a true willingness to do it. Our competitors overseas in Canada have no issues exporting, why do we make it such an issue here?
Big Bill Corella
16/08/2007 5:48:29 PM

450 years BCE, the Persians were piping water over hundreds of miles to irrigate their farms in what is now Iran/Iraq. The only reason that scheme failed was warfare that never ceased. If the north of Australia cannot be the food bowl of Asia, why not pipe the water to where it can be used on the Murray-Darling system. Perhaps our esteemed leaders are not as intelligent as the Persians were. Or don't they really care?
Citizen J
16/08/2007 9:41:36 PM

Whilst we are internally focused on a political debate, our sizeable competitors are taking up this technology and our markets.
Concerned about GM
16/08/2007 10:47:30 PM

NFF President David Crombie has said: "Farmers must have the opportunity to adopt the method of production best suited to their customers' needs – be that GM, conventional, organic or any combination of these methods." Does he realise that once we let GM in farmers who don't want to plant GM no longer have any choices? The name of the game for GM companies is contamination. Once their crop contaminates your fields willingly or unwillingly, you owe licence fees to them. They have sued thousands of US and Canadian farmers, and now it is not possible to grow non-GM there. Please open your eyes and see what's happening!
bush goddess
17/08/2007 3:38:51 PM

The tired old argument that Australia is being left behind Canada as they have GE technology and we don't, is very misleading. If there is more of a commodity in the world markets, the price is reduced, simply due to ample availability. When something is scarce, the price rises due to the existing demand and the willingness of those with the money to pay for it. If Australia joins Canada in growing GE canola, we are simply adding more of a similar commodity to the world pool and farmers will be the end casualty as they are NOT in a position to negotiate prices - they will still be price takers. (Does this sound familiar?) To become a price-maker, you need to have a product that no-one else has or is in short supply - think of diamonds and gold and saffron (actually worth more per ounce than gold at present). GE-free canola is in dwindling supply yet there isn't a shortage of buyers actively seeking it. To hold a competitive advantage in the market place, a product needs to be different and provide that specific point of difference to all the rest. GE-free canola does exactly that. Underlying the mantra that Australian farmers need to have this technology is the belief that if one produces more tonnes per hectare, there will be a higher profit as more dollars per hectare are returned. When the costs of production (paying for the more expensive GE technology plus usual inputs including the increased price of diesel)there is no guarantee that profitability is increased as the more GE canola there is in the market place, the less valuable it becomes. Imagine each hectare producing 12 months of the year and not being exhausted for six months per year as it is now under an annual monoculture regime. How much more profitable would it be for a farming enterprise to have a polyculture system which returns four or five income streams per hectare? Think that's fanciful in Australia? No - it's happening in pasture cropping systems and other perennial-grass based cropping and grazing enterprises and the costs of production keep dropping each year as the soil health improves and the ecology is able to fully express its potential.
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