Farm groups welcome GM debate

12 Jan, 2016 06:45 AM
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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.”

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Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Bob Phelps
12/01/2016 12:31:34 PM

Agribusiness GM spruikers. Most of Australia's 134,000 farmers & shoppers back GM-free farms & food. The Greens are united on Genetic Manipulation (GM) policy was reconfirmed in November, after the interview with Di Natale. He sets the record straight now by saying: "A high evidence threshold must be met to demonstrate that there are not any negative impacts of GMOs before we would consider supporting their use. The best evidence available tells us that GMOs have not yet been proven universally safe for our environment, agricultural systems or human health." Greens GM-free policy is a winner.
wtf
13/01/2016 5:54:28 AM

How much of that sciency stuff u refer to is undertaken in Aust? how much tests chronic exposure in representative life expectancies? how much is undertaken by people with the relevant medical qualifications and not geneticists or animal scientists? why complete ignorance of same tests undertaken in Russia and China that show negative effects? Why no labelling to allow epidemiological studies? why no transparency in commonly used gmo safety studies? Campbell soups and Hershey are labelling/removing GMO, do u think they will gain market share and offer producers a market premium for nongmo?
Hebe
13/01/2016 1:11:45 PM

"Australia’s cotton industry is the most water-efficient and highest-yielding in the world" Is this suggesting that the GM cotton has been engineered to be 'water -efficient'? I thought this was a trait taken from non-GM varieties? I also thought drought tolerant crops were still in the pipeline??
Rural Realist
13/01/2016 1:41:13 PM

Excellent move, the only way to get positive traction on this issue is to engage with the science deniers, not to shout at them across the room.
No-Till Bill
15/01/2016 2:36:23 PM

The Greens leader is a medical doctor and he knows that 70% of our medicines are GM derived, so for him to not support GM crop tech would be absurd. Insulin has been GM for over 20 years and has no pig impurities like the old days. The technology is safe and clean. Farmers in the Geraldton region, where i farm, deliver 70% of their canola as GM and its helping them compete with a world aflood with GM crops. 97% of the worlds soy is GM and we import 500,000 tonnes into Australia every year and this is fed to most likestock we eat. Phelps position is illogical, unethical and costly to farmers.
Bob Phelps
19/01/2016 9:40:35 AM

Do your sums Bill. GM canola growers can't sell in GM-free Europe, to earn premiums of up to $65/tonne for GM-free over GM varieties. GM seed tech fees, branded Roundup, segregation & transport all cost extra. Profits suffer. The Greens agree that Genetic Manipulation techniques can be used to alter the characteristics of any living thing - plant, animal, microbe or human. GM medicines such as insulin are made & refined from GM microbes in contained facilities, so no living organisms can escape & medical experts administer the products. The risks of GM crops and foods demand more caution.

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