CROPLIFE Australia claims that genetically modified (GM) crops have led to an income boost of $595 million in Australia since they were first introduced in 1996.
Australian farmers have access to GM cotton and canola.
CropLife, the nation’s biotech peak body, is basing its claims on a report from PG Economics.
Chief executive at CropLife, Matthew Cossey, said there were many benefits from GM technology, including lower input costs and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
ABARES executive director Paul Morris has highlighted Australia's poor global ranking (13th) in the adoption of GM technology, including State moratoriums on the use or trial of GM crops, as an example of how local farmers had slipped behind many of their key competitors when they needed to focus hard on improving drought resistance in crops and pastures and improving livestock genetics.
"There is an expectation in government and the community that a fantastic largess from the trade opportunities opening up around Australia will land in our lap," Mr Morris said.
"In reality we need to have a focus on productivity and smart thinking on farms to ensure we are producing better returns."
Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said at the ABARES annual outlook conference in March that he’d encourage everyone to engage with the national regulatory framework on cropping biotechnology.
Minister Ludwig said a good framework already existed for allowing GM crops to be produced in Australia, through the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR).
“Crop biotechnology has also contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices," Mr Cossey said, resulting from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with GM crops.
"In 2011, this was equivalent to removing 23 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 10.2 million cars – 80 per cent of the cars registered in Australia – from the road for one year."
The report also states the global farm income gain from biotech crops since 1996 has been US $98.2 billion.
Mr Cossey said GM crops were essential for a growing global population.
“Given that we need to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050 than we do today in order to meet the needs of our growing population, these figures give real, concrete evidence that agricultural biotechnology is a crucial asset for achieving that goal.
“If crop biotechnology had not been available to the 16.7 million farmers using the technology in 2011, maintaining global production at the 2011 levels would have required additional plantings equivalent to 33 per cent of the arable land in Australia.
"That’s over 15 million hectares of forest and natural habitat saved by the use of crop biotechnology.