GREENS leader and Victorian Senator Richard Di Natale’s public statements regarding genetically modified crop science have been praised by farming groups as an opportunity for change.
GrainGrowers chief executive Alicia Garden said her group believed Senator Di Natale’s science and evidence-based approach to genetically modified (GM) crops was welcome news to advance the historically vexed debate.
“You either choose to believe in science or not and if you believe in climate change and the science of climate change you should also support the science of plant breeding technologies,” she said.
“You are either a science sceptic or a science believer.
“You can’t just use one perspective to support your position then argue the same science is not applicable on another topic, just because it does not align with your views.”
Ms Garden said her group was writing a letter to Senator Di Natale on the GM crop issue and welcomed an opportunity to meet and explore the topic further.
She said GrainGrowers disagreed with his comments on GM’s driving increased chemical and pesticide use but supported other policy views.
“One of the drivers behind GMs is to reduce the requirement for on-farm chemicals but we do support his views about transparent labelling because consumers should have a choice as to whether they eat GM foods or not,” she said.
“We also believe and absolutely agree with Senator Di Natale’s comments that all growers should have the choice as to whether they grow GM varieties or not based on their circumstances.”
Chairman of the WA Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association’s Western Graingrowers Committee and Calingiri grain farmer Gary McGill said adhering to anti-GM crop policies or campaigns meant disregarding credible scientific evidence.
“To disregard the proven science is just a form of ideological madness – not petty politics – by the Greens or their representatives,” he said.
Mr McGill said the Greens had an ongoing challenge now to follow Senator Di Natale’s lead on GM crops science and shift policy.
“If there’s going to be any change of policy, I’ll only believe it when I see it,” he said.
“But the Greens are so deeply wedded in their opposition to rational science and logic I can’t see them changing their position on GMs.”
Mr McGill said the Green’s GM policy contradicted that of the federal Coalition and Labor.
He said WA grain farmers had adopted GM canola “overwhelmingly” each season after its commercial introduction in 2010.
“It’s not the be all and end all for grain growers but it’s a very valuable tool,” he said.
National Farmers Federation president Brent Finlay welcomed Senator Di Natale’s “sensible comments” saying they acknowledged the underlying science of GM crops and deserved broad praise.
Cotton Australia chief executive Adam Kay welcomed Senator Di Natale’s comments saying he and his colleagues were welcome to visit cotton growers on-farm to see the “enormous benefits” biotechnology had brought their industry, “and, by extension, could bring to other areas of agriculture”.
"Cotton growers have been using biotechnology successfully in Australia for 19 years, with significant benefits to the environment, farmers and the communities they support,” he said.
"Australia’s cotton industry is the most water-efficient and highest-yielding in the world, and its success is reliant upon efficient farm management practices, including the benefits brought by biotechnology.
"A sound argument could be made that, without cotton biotechnology, Australia’s cotton industry would be a fraction of its size or even non-existent.”