BCG clarifies GM stance

04 Nov, 2013 01:00 AM
BCG research agronomist Simon Craig.
BCG research agronomist Simon Craig.

INFLUENTIAL farm research group Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) has set the record straight regarding its position on biotech crops.

Research from BCG has been used by anti-GM lobby group Gene Ethics to argue the case against growing genetically modified (GM) canola.

The research came from the 2011 harvest and found that the gross margins of growing Roundup Ready (RR) lines of canola were way behind that of conventionally bred varieties.

BCG research agronomist Simon Craig said the figures had been taken out of context by Gene Ethics.

“They were only meant as an example of one year in one location, and were not meant as an overall assessment of the fit of GM canola," Mr Craig said.

“Results from that year and that location showed RR was less profitable, but that will not be the case in every year and every location.

“In 2011 the conditions were very favourable and the Crusher TT variety yielded very well, which it might not do in a tougher year.”

Mr Craig pointed to 2012 National Variety Trial data from Hopetoun, which showed RR lines yielding 31pc more than Clearfield varieties and 29pc more than triazine tolerant (TT) cultivars.

Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps said he thought the figures were a good demonstration of the problems with GM crops and denied they had been misrepresented.

“They show a clear discount to conventional varieties,” Mr Phelps said.

BCG chief executive David Chamberlin said it was disappointing to see the figures continually used by Gene Ethics.

“We always take an unbiased position in regards to the role of GM crops.”

Mr Craig said over the years there had been little difference in yield between RR, TT and Clearfield lines of canola.

Results from 2011 did, however, show that at that time, and in that location, Roundup Ready canola was less profitable in the Mallee, with freight a key consideration.

“To help farmers make informed decisions BCG uses economics to show some of the considerations that need to be factored in when selecting a variety to grow in certain areas,” Mr Craig said.

Crucially, Mr Craig said farmers would never use figures from just one year in making their management decisions.

“The results did not factor in the long-term rotation implications of each variety.”

Mr Craig said with resistant weeds increasing across the Wimmera and Mallee, growers were looking to GM canola varieties as one more tool they could use to protect, and improve, the productivity of their farmed land.

“The weed spectrum that is present in the paddock will determine what canola variety the farmer should grow,” he said.

“There is growing resistance to Group A and Group B herbicides used in the Clearfield and TT systems so another tool in the form of RR varieties will be useful.

“There are not only issues with ryegrass, but also wild radish and brome grass that need to be managed carefully.

“We’re not going to tell growers not to grow RR because of the political ramifications.”

Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


X AG Socialist,
4/11/2013 10:33:07 AM

I want RR+TT =RRTT
Bob Phelps
4/11/2013 9:07:47 PM

GM canola sure is a loser but BCG was leaned on to disown its gross margin analysis in Farm Policy Journal, April 2012, Pp 20 & 21: "The reason why the GM Roundup Ready variety was around $150/ha less profitable than the TT & conventional varieties had nothing to do with yield, they were all the same. ... RR seed is more than double the cost of the other seeds, a seed use premium is paid, transport to bulk recieval silo was higher, & price per tonne received was less." Average yields of GM Roundup Ready & other canola were also the same in NSW, 2008-2012: GM, a dud!
6/11/2013 8:07:13 AM

If it's a "dud" I wonder why so much of the RR canola is grown here? For Phelps RR (GM) is bad but TT (induced mutation) is not. Both technolgies give herbicide tolerance. Like most of his logic, not much sense. Farmers must use every tool in the kit to stay ahead.
Bob Phelps
7/11/2013 8:39:12 PM

Roundup tolerant GM canola in NSW and Victoria is in decline as farmers choose among many other options. GM & non-GM varieties average the same yield but input costs for GM seed, brand chemicals, transport and segregation are higher. There is also a price discount for GM canola, so profits are down. See: prod/lc/qalc.nsf/18101dc36b638302 ca257146007ee41a/8811f2e4d25d809d ca257b5d001e12b9?OpenDocument and ture/innovation-and-research/biot echnology/genetically-modified-cr ops/what-is-canola-and-gm-canola GM dud, indeed!
Had Enough Huek
8/11/2013 9:31:34 AM

Bob, the results I have observed in WA this year do not support your argument at all. One example I can quote is east of Moora where RR Hybrid varieties where being trialed with yields ranging from 1.8 to 2 t/ha. Right next door was a TT variety yielding 1.5 t/ha. These yield differences are common this year between the two systems.
David Harrison
10/11/2013 6:13:12 PM

In my opinion, the discussion is missing the crux of the matter. The argument shouldn't centre on which is better in regards to yield, rather what does the consumer want. At the end of the day, the consumer should have the final say. This can only happen if there is truth in labelling. I do not want GM foods. That is my choice. I am not interested in the propaganda put out saying that GMO's are the future and will feed the world. I read labels. I try to buy Australian as much as I can. Price isn't always the deciding factor. Truth in labelling will put beyond any doubt what people think of GM.


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