Call for facts in GM debate

02 Oct, 2012 02:00 AM
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ABCA Chair Claude Gauchat and Hollie Baillieu.
ABCA Chair Claude Gauchat and Hollie Baillieu.

UP and coming Australian young farm industry leader Hollie Baillieu has praised moves to increase public debate on biotechnology, or Genetically Modified crops, using more fact-based information and less emotive arguments.

The NSW Farmers Association Young Farmers Chair welcomed the official launch of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) at Parliament House in Canberra recently.

The launch was timed to coincide with the Science Meets Parliament event in Canberra.

More than 200 scientists held a range of meetings with Federal MPs and Senators urging all sides of politics to pay as much attention to science, as they do to economics and short-term political considerations, while maintaining funding support.

The ABCA is a joint initiative of AusBiotech, CropLife Australia, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the National Farmers’ Federation.

Ms Baillieu said biotechnology wasn’t necessarily the “answer” to feeding the world’s growing population.

But she said it was an exciting field of opportunity for the nation’s farmers to explore, through a more informed, factual debate with less emotive hype.

She said the “antagonistic” behaviour around the GM debate needed to stop, amongst farmers and others, as they shared similar values on profitability and environmental sustainability and feeding the world’s future food in-secure population.

“GM isn’t scary it’s forward thinking and that’s why I’d like to see the level of communication increased,” she said.

Ms Baillieu said her “city cousins” suffered from a lack of fact based information on biotechnology and the benefits it brings for farmers, while other industry sectors also lacked a general understanding of the science.

She said farming suffered from a lack of new entrants and an ageing work-force – but biotechnology had the capacity to attract new entrants and sustain participants through improved profitability and crop yields.

GM cotton is an “amazing” example of how the technology can be used by Australian farmers to perform successfully for the environment with better water use efficiency and reduced chemical use, while adding to profitability, she said.

Ms Baillieu said the Council would be able to refer to the GM cotton experience to help provide fact-based information to the general public, of a real life example.

Inaugural ABCA Chair Claude Gauchat said the new organisation was established to help shape a new era for Australian agriculture by encouraging informed debate on biotechnology through the dissemination of credible, balanced, science-based information.

“As the world’s farming sector seeks to double production to meet the food and nutritional requirements of the growing global population, we have a moral imperative to encourage and develop all potential tools and technologies that will aid farmers in producing more with less, sustainably,” he said.

“The Council’s mission is guided by this global food security challenge and the role that Australian agriculture can play in leading the world into a future free from hunger and malnutrition.

“Through the creation and sharing of research and knowledge, ABCA’s work aims to place biotechnology and gene technology into context as another invaluable innovation for Australian agriculture; ensuring that science guides public policy for the future of farming.”

Mr Gauchat said ABCA would strive to ensure that the public policy and regulatory environment was guided by scientifically credible and factually correct information regarding the full benefits that agricultural biotechnology offers to Australian farming.

He said the Council’s role would be to the national coordinating organisation for the Australian agricultural biotechnology sector.

The Council’s Co-Patrons will be former deputy-prime minister John Anderson and the former chairperson of CSIRO and Lieutenant Governor of Victoria Professor Adrienne Clarke.

Mr Anderson commended the Council’s founding members for their foresight and commitment in establishing the “important organisation”.

“I look forward to the great work that the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia will do in assisting the nation’s farming effort,” he said.

Professor Clarke highlighted the importance of scientific innovation to agricultural productivity.

“Science is at the core of farming and science-based evidence needs to be the guiding framework for public policy concerning agriculture,” she said.

“If we are to have any chance of meeting the challenges posed by future food security needs, farmers must have the choice to use the technologies suited to their particular circumstances and access to all the tools we can find, to achieve the full potential of Australian food, feed and fibre production.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the Australian Government welcomed the further engagement by industry in the biotechnology space that the ABCA would provide.

“The Australian Government considers that agricultural biotechnology can play an important part in helping to deal with emerging challenges, including those arising from climate change, pressure on global food supplies and the management of pests and diseases,” he said.

“In the National Food Plan green paper, the government is seeking feedback on its proposal to work with the states and territories towards developing a national strategy on the consistent application of modern biotechnology in agriculture.

“The strategy would consider constraints to the adoption of biotechnology in agriculture - including genetically modified crops - and outline a clear path to market for emerging biotechnology applications where appropriate.”

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READER COMMENTS

themule
2/10/2012 6:26:00 AM

The only debate is how we ever let the states grow GM Crops in the first place. There is no doubt in anyone's mind once you see the weed resistance issues that have been created from overuse of chemicals. WA is a prime example. Farms are being offered up for lease because of their resistance issues and they can't lease them because they have run out of chemicals to treat the resistant weeds. GM crops only fuel this problem and once again the chemical companies write themselves into your will again. In no other situation would you let a tobacco company offer a solution for the cancer they cause.
THE FARMER
2/10/2012 7:44:06 AM

If your blaming herbicide resistance on gm before it's happened you are a mule .The green movement has never let facts get in the way of a good emotive rant .One funny fact about alot of those farms , no sheep for the last 20 years .
Now in NZ
2/10/2012 8:48:01 AM

The GM debate is fuelled by a lot of people who have no idea what is possible if the industry was regulated. For example, selective plant trait breeding is a natural process which can be sped up by using GM techniques. However, whilst this is not transposing alien/foreign genes, it is not allowed because it is considered GM. You will never have a balanced argument until the green movement actually accepts all the facts that are involved.
graingrower
2/10/2012 12:02:18 PM

The farmer needs only look in the US for amazing resistance 100pc related to RR crops. The real worry will be who controls agriculture in the future. It is a great distraction to always talk about food safty and limit the debate to Greens versus smart science. By the way, I am a large dryland graingrower and do use chemicals as I am a zero tiller. So my comments cannot be put in the "Green" basket.
peter
2/10/2012 2:29:23 PM

you maybe the only smart grain grower as all the others dont get it .Its mutlinationals way of securing your income you have to feed out of there trough from here on,if you allow GM crops there is no advantage in them at all .Please give me one good reason why we would want to grow GM crops just 1? When they have got you they control you.
THE FARMER
2/10/2012 8:15:49 PM

Grain grower , resistance was occurring in rye grass as far back as 1978 . My problem with mule is his it happened once so don't use again stance against technology .Whether you turn the sheep in or use a seed destructor or chaff cart or god forbid conventional cultivate there are a lot of ways to skin that cat .
Bagheera
2/10/2012 8:20:02 PM

" Ms Baillieu said biotechnology wasn’t necessarily the “answer” to feeding the world’s growing population. " Finally the truth! GM technology isn't the answer to anything. The whole purpose of GM is effectively anti-competitive food markets. It's not going to feed the world, as for being drought resistant, there's plenty of GM wheat dead due to prolonged drought in the US. GM is for fools to be soon parted from their money.
zero till
3/10/2012 6:32:18 PM

I think 20 years of no sheep is just economics. They dont make that much and are labour intensive. Cropping is so much easier.

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