Discoveries lauded but not supported

19 Apr, 2006 08:45 PM
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FROST-TOLERANT genes discovered in Victoria last week are testament to the benefits Australian growers are losing by rejecting GM crops, according to grower lobby group Producers Forum.

Producers Forum WA chairman John Snooke said Victorian AgriBiosciences Centre researchers had isolated a frost-tolerance gene able to bind to grain genes.

A grain and mixed livestock farmer from Cunderdin, Mr Snooke said he clearly understood the benefits of such technology.

"Frost can have a significant effect on cereal crops in WA," he said.

"Just last year many growers over a number of shires were affected and WA alone was estimated to have lost about $90 million worth of crop."

Producers Forum national convenor Jeff Bidstrup said a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) report showed all Australian graingrowing areas were at times similarly affected.

The GRDC reported that Victoria and South Australia suffered $33 million losses to frosted crops each year.

In northern NSW and Queensland, damage to wheat and barley was estimated to cost about $100m a year.

Mr Bidstrup said he hoped Victorian Premier Steve Bracks' and WA Premier Alan Carpenter's attendance at the international Biotechnology 2006 Conference in Chicago, US - where the gene discovery will be formally announced - would prompt new GMO policies.

"It is not tenable for Mr Bracks to laud these discoveries and then stop Victorian growers gaining the benefit from these biotech advances while our international competitors streak ahead," Mr Bidstrup said.

"The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator has already approved varieties of canola that have a positive impact on our farming systems.

"Only the outdated moratorium by Victoria, and mirrored by other state governments, is holding us back.

"We cannot compete in international markets with both hands tied behind our back."

Mr Bidstrup said Producers Forum urged the various government representatives attending the Chicago conference to make a commitment to ensure Australian farmers had access to gene technology research and development outcomes.

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