MPBCRC, one of the largest consortiums of molecular plant breeders in Australia, has over 200 scientists working in laboratories in Victoria, SA and WA focusing on molecular methods for developing improved crops.
Dr Tong said MPBCRC played a vital role in the GMO debate because many of its core technologies, such as genetically modified (GM) wheat and pastures, were impacted on by GM legislation.
³As far as canola is concerned, we are now at least four years behind the rest of the world due to the moratoria in four states,² Dr Tong said.
³Fortunately, the impact on wheat has been minimal because it is still a number of years away from commercial release.
³But we hope that by the time any of our GM products are ready for commercial release the moratoria would have expired and farmers can reap the benefits of our research.²
All grain growing states except Queensland have a moratorium in place on GM canola with WA set to review its position next year.
State Agriculture Minister Kim Chance has said WA¹s moratorium on commercial GM crop production would run for the term of government and be reviewed, as with all government policies.
Mr Chance said the moratorium on GM crops supported the state¹s clean and green status.
³It will look after the lifestyle of our farming communities by protecting our overseas markets and environment,² Mr Chance said.
³It will also ensure that WA consumers continue to have a choice about the food they wish to eat.²
Dr Tong however, disagrees and believes the moratoria should be lifted without delay.
He warned about the dangers associated with failing to act swiftly, including the loss of valuable investment capital.
³If we act now and start supporting the development of GM crops, especially canola and wheat, we have theoretically only lost a few years, given that research into GM wheat and pastures like the programs MPBCRC is running have not been affected much,² he said.
³However, if the state moratoria is extended, we stand a real risk of potential investors in this technology being scared away from Australia and we will slip into a very weak competitive position in global grain production.
³We also have to bear in mind that major international trade competitors like Canada, USA, South America and Asia are steaming ahead with GM technologies in their major crops.
³Extension of the moratoria would mean that Australian farmers would have an even tougher time competing on the world stage.²