They can co-exist: Longson

27 Jul, 2005 08:45 PM
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COULD genetically modified (GM) and non-GM crops co-exist in Australia and were there premiums for non-GM crops on world markets?

The answer, according to Co-operative Bulk Handling (CBH) chairman Rob Sewell, was they could co-exist.

He said Argentina - Australia's major grain competitor - was the world's second largest producer of GM crops and second largest producer of organic crops, which proved co-existence could work.

Mr Sewell, who addressed last week's GrainsWest Expo, said genetically modified organisms had also helped Argentina lift its average yields from 2t/ha to 3t/ha.

"Argentina is using GM crops to its advantage so I think that we need to be open to that," he said.

"I think we can co-exist.

"I am not saying we go out and plant GM crops immediately because there is a lot of work to do first.

"The people who say things can't be done should get out of the way of people who are doing it."

Mr Sewell said Argentina was making inroads into Australian grain markets, something Australia had to be wary of.

He said CBH had conducted a GM trial at Geraldton on a small amount of product to see if it could be separated in the handling system.

Agriculture Department director general Ian Longson said marketers had informed the government, which had a moratorium on the growing of GM crops in WA, that there was a preference for non-GM crops.

"I think it's pretty hard for government to read market signals when told up front that there is a preference for non-GM," he said.

Mr Longson said that during a visit to Japan, he found supermarket shelves stocked with quality-assured, non-GM soy products.

"There is a 30pc premium for soy into Japan," he said.

"I share the view that in another 10-15 years, we will have GM crops and that it will be a quick catch up."

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