Renewed push for GM wheat

11 Jun, 2014 02:00 AM
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To date, no GM wheat has been commercialised in the world

A BROAD cross-section of the Australian wheat growing sector has thrown its weight behind continued research and development in the genetically modified (GM) wheat space.

As previously reported by FarmOnline, six Australian grain grower and industry groups have signed up to the GM Wheat trilateral statement, along with counterparts from Canada and the US, all supporting the development of GM wheat.

However, in spite of support from grower groups in WA, SA, Victoria and Queensland, the statement was as notable for who did not sign it as who did, with some of the major farming groups in the nation’s two biggest producing states, WA and NSW, not participating.

The statement comes out on the fifth anniversary of the first trilateral statement.

Grain Producers Australia (GPA) chairman Andrew Weidemann said his organisation was excited by the research going on in GM wheat and the potential for breakthroughs in areas such as salt, drought and frost tolerance.

“To date, no GM wheat has been commercialised in the world, however, significant research is underway in Australia and around the world to improve wheat varieties,” he said.

Mr Weidemann said fears about the safety of GM food crops were unfounded.

“Genetically modified crops are now 18 years old. In 2013, 175 million hectares of GM crops were planted in 27 countries.”

John Snooke, chairman of PGA Western Grain Growers in WA said GM wheat research was exciting for growers.

“It will only be matter of time before researcher identify and work with a trait will be useful for farmers and consumers,” he said.

Mr Snooke said the Aussie grains industry had proven it had the necessary supply chain requirements in place for co-existence with the example of GM canola.

“If you can separate canola, with its small seed, you certainly can do it with wheat.”

One of the big hurdles with GM wheat has been a lack of a path to market.

Mr Snooke said he had no doubt there would be a market for a GM wheat product.

“What we have to do is engage with the buyers and develop a market from there.”

He said there was a precedent in the Canadian canola industry where lobbyists developed the market for the product after it had been grown.

In terms of the backlash to GM food crops, Mr Snooke said every year that went by without incident was convincing more people of the safety of GM food crops.

“The rational factor is winning out.”

WAFarmers grains council president Kim Simpson had a markedly different take to Mr Snooke, suggesting the statement was little more than a push by the biotech sector to get a crop onto the world stage whether it was wanted or not.

“Biotech companies desperately want the world to produce GM wheat but they’re scared of the consumer backlash,” he said.

“No particular country in the wheat-growing world wants to be first for that very reason.”

Mr Simpson said his organisation was not anti-GM, with over half the grains council growing GM canola, but he said there was not enough known about GM wheat yet to support the statement.

“We weren’t happy with it despite having nothing against GM crops on the whole, we were also concerned GM wheat could do more damage to our WA wheat markets than good.”

Mr Simpson said WAFarmers’ position on biotechnology had always been considerate of individual farmers and the markets they supply to.

“We support agricultural progression and as long as there’s a market for the product, growers should have the choice as to what it is they want to grow,” he said.

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READER COMMENTS

wtf
11/06/2014 5:46:07 AM

I would suggest NSW and WA farmers association had not sold out to mega corp, we the farmers may not be alone. I look forwrd to improvements in the future in research but we need to see what the BRICs want as they will have the majority of the worlds population and the worlds money printers. growing more grain will not help us when only 5% of the world are getting enough food.
Mark
11/06/2014 6:39:25 AM

A survey of our buyers and end users should be done before anything else. A total waste of money researching something our market will reject. The US what us on the same level as them so as to steel our markets why else would they be pushing so hard to have us sign off on such an agreement. At least NSWFarmers and WAFF are accountable to its members who set the Policy not the Policy of the Corporate's and there band of supporters.
John Newton
11/06/2014 6:49:34 AM

Do you know what happened when America said it was going to grow GM wheat? Threatened boycott by all of its major customers. Be very careful
John Newton
11/06/2014 6:54:09 AM

Take a look at this story http://rt.com/usa/monsanto-lawsui ts-gmo-wheat-603/
suzanne
11/06/2014 7:10:13 AM

Mr Weidemann said, "Fears about the safety of GM food crops are unfounded". Given that their is no GM wheat yet, how can any promises about its safety be given Mr Weidemann? The big issue is that producers today are not in any position to dictate what consumers feelings will be. We have seen similar mistakes in so many other agricultural products. One would think that farmer leaders today would have learned from past experiences before telling consumers what food they will take. Please tell us now which customers of our wheat are seeking GM wheat Mr Weidemann. Bet you can't?
Dalby
11/06/2014 7:18:14 AM

Mr Weidemann and Mr Snooke, before you commit our vastly diminished number of wheat farmers (since losing Single Desk), to becoming a GM wheat supplier nation, how much research have you done into customer wishes for GM wheat. Last I read there are no customers seeking supplies of GM grains of any kind. We know how much the demand is for our current high quality wheat because we have always cleared our 25 -35 million tonnes annually. Before you put all our farmers and all that wheat at risk what about getting some guarantees in the market?
Mug
11/06/2014 7:23:14 AM

Well it begs the question, " What's driving GM ? Is it the slick sales push or the demand? For GM to be widely accepted a huge increase in profits need to be achieved to overcome the buyer resistance. Why would we grow something that the buyer is suspicious about ? This science has been very poorly managed. The share holders are the masters. Time is fast running out for GM. Folk I speak to say 'Ho Hum. Why would I bother growing it ?"
the sceptic
11/06/2014 7:28:22 AM

one minute youre callin the end of the world, next minute you are an expert on global food needs? confused?? its real simple 80 million new mouths a year. food has to come from somewhere to feed em. it ain't goin to be from paddocks of ryegrass and radish eh mate
NSW Farmer
11/06/2014 7:47:52 AM

Look at the yield gains achieved with GM canola. We would be mad to shut the gate on that with wheat. Apparently gluten free wheat will be one of the first cabs off the ranks. A real dilemna for the hippy herbivores up at Byron Bay
tim from oakey
11/06/2014 10:14:15 AM

NSW Farmer, having double the amount of something that is possibly unsalable is not much help is it?
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