Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 072 January-February 2008 - North
GM canola delivers choice n The Victorian and NSW Governments’ decisions to end four-year moratoria on the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) canola crops is a step forward for Australian agriculture. It will allow all members of the grain supply chain to access the products of their choice. The bans were introduced on the basis of market and trade considerations – issues that are not addressed as part of the national regulatory system. Both the Victorian and NSW Governments established independent review committees to receive public submissions and review evidence. Victorian Premier John Brumby said the government had accepted Federal Government approvals along with the findings of a report led by Victoria’s chief scientist Sir Gustav Nossal, which gave the ‘all clear’ for GM canola. Premier Brumby said the decision would not only put Victorian farmers on a level playing field with overseas farmers, it would also deliver significant environmental benefits. “Genetically modified hardier forms of canola would result in less tillage – and therefore less soil erosion – as well as less use of pesticide,” he said. The report found no evidence to suggest a market or price advantage of Australian canola (as a bulk commodity) that was attributable to its non-GM status, and stated that an extension of the moratorium would damage the capacity of Victoria’s grain producers to respond to changing circumstances and to remain competitive over time. The report by the NSW independent review committee, chaired by Ian Armstrong, recommended that the NSW Government remove the moratorium, stating there was strong evidence that the introduction of GM canola into NSW would have minimal impact on market access or prices for the majority of Australian canola. In particular, the statement “Delivering market choice with GM canola” was highly regarded by the NSW Review Panel because it demonstrated the Australian grains industry was prepared for GM canola and could ensure market choice for supply chain participants, including customers. NSW Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald has introduced the Gene Technology (GM Crop Moratorium) Amendment Bill 2007, which requires an expert committee to assess whether an industry is prepared and capable of segregating GM and non-GM crops. Minister Macdonald said it was important to note that the NSW Minister for Primary Industries will have the power to refuse approval to cultivate a specific crop if an industry fails to meet the criteria imposed by the expert committee. The announcements by the Victorian and NSW Governments were followed by a significant amount of industry support from AusBiotech, Australian Dairy Industry Council, Australian Oilseeds Federation, Australian Seed Federation, BioMelbourne Network, Croplife Australia, GRDC, National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), NSW Farmers’ Association, Pioneer, Producers Forum, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), and the Western Australian Farmers Federation. NFF president David Crombie said NSW and Victorian farmers can now capitalise on the opportunities gene technology possesses for agricultural production – finally able to develop more environmentally-sustainable, drought-resistant and better yielding crops. NSW Farmers’ Association president Jock Laurie said: “This is a win for the environment, with GM crops potentially meaning fewer emissions and less chemical use, healthier soil and more sustainable farming practices ... giving farmers the choice of using GM technology is the key to the sector remaining internationally competitive, and is in line with the Association’s policy.” VFF president Simon Ramsay believed there had been a lot of recent scaremongering and it was significant that the Victorian Premier and Minister for Agriculture had adopted the recommendations of the panel in full. “The decision on GM has been based on sound scientific, rational and objective advice and will benefit farmers, the environment and the Victorian economy,” Simon Ramsay said. “Agriculture is changing. The impacts of climate change and a global economy need to be managed. Providing farmers with the ability to choose to use world’s best technology is essential to maintaining a strong and profitable farm sector.” GM canola types have been grown, consumed and traded around the world for more than a decade. Australian farmers will now have the opportunity, if they choose, to use these new varieties. More information: www.afaa.com.au; www.dpi.nsw.gov.au; www.dpi.vic.gov.au GENE TECHNOLOGY WORKSHOP IN WAGGA WAGGA n Agrifood Awareness Australia Ltd and CSIRO will hold a gene technology workshop in Wagga Wagga from 6 to 7 March 2008. The two-day workshop will offer those involved in agriculture the opportunity to understand the science and regulation of gene technology in Australia and will give participants a basic understanding of the laboratory Commentary GROuNd COvER JANuARY – FEbRuARY 2008 30 Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited is an industry initiative established to increase public awareness of, and encourage informed debate and decision-making about, gene technology. The organisation is supported by three peak bodies, including the GRDC. THE GENE SCENE bY PAuLA FITzGERALd GMOs and gene technology in Australia Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited EvIdENCE LINKING GRAINS ANd HEALTH KEEPS GROWING n When it comes to health and nutrition, the good news about grain foods just keeps on coming. Two recent reports based on reviews of the international scientific literature – by the National Centre of Excellence in Functional Foods (NCEFF) at the University of Wollongong and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) International – provide strong support for the important role of grain foods in a healthy diet. The Go Grains-commissioned NCEFF report confirmed that grain foods (especially wholegrains) are significant in disease prevention and health promotion, and confirmed the recommendation that all Australians over the age of four years old should eat four plus serves of grain-based foods each day. Speaking at the recent launch of the Go Grains ‘4+ campaign’, study leader Professor Linda Tapsell said the message from an analysis of the published scientific literature is that Australians should be eating a diet that contains adequate levels of grain- based foods, especially wholegrain foods. “The body of scientific evidence shows that consuming grain and wholegrain foods delivers key nutrients, forms part of a diet for a healthy weight, and may be protective against a range of diseases including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers,” Professor Tapsell said. Senator Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, supported this view: “In a country with a growing obesity problem we need to promote healthier eating patterns, especially for children, and eating four plus serves of grain foods a day is an essential part of the overall health message the government is keen to promote. The NCEFF report also confirmed that replacing some of the protein in popular high- protein diets with extra grain foods improved the dietary profile. It resulted in a reduction in the saturated fat content and an improvement in the polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat ratio of the overall diet, and boosted the fibre content to above the recommended levels, while still providing adequate amounts of iron and zinc (important nutrients provided by protein-rich foods). These findings are important to address the trend to higher-protein eating patterns. The WCRF International report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, further supports the need for healthy diets to focus on plant foods, such as grains and legumes. More than 100 scientists from 30 different countries were involved in the report, and the expert panel worked for five years to assess the research. One of the report’s 10 recommendations, which received worldwide media attention, is to ‘Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and pulses such as beans’. The report recommendations are based on solid evidence and, when followed, will be expected to reduce the incidence of cancer. Go Grains will pursue the area of grain foods and bowel health in its program of activities in 2008. More information: www.gograins.com.au; to order copies of the ‘4+ Serves A day’ information brochure, Go Grains 4+ Info Line, 1300 472 467 GO GRAINS bY TRISH GRIFFITHS Accredited Practising dietitian; Executive Manager, Go Grains Health and Nutrition Ltd techniques that underpin gene technology. Training includes laboratory work in DNA extraction, gene isolation and gene transfer, as well as formal lectures including a case study. The workshop is conducted by a combination of CSIRO teaching and scientific research staff from Canberra. More information: www.afaa.com.au GM CANOLA – bENEFITS FOR AuSTRALIA n Prior to the NSW and Victorian Governments announcing their decision to end the moratoria on the commercial cultivation of GM canola crops, two studies were released, each reporting benefits for Australia if it was to introduce GM canola crops. The University of Melbourne report Canola and Australian Farming Systems – 2003 to 2007 found that the grains industry could produce an additional $157 million worth of canola and wheat each year if GM canola was commercialised in Australia. The report notes that if GM canola was adopted on more than half the current canola growing area there would be substantial economic and environmental benefits. The report provides a summary of more than 20 recent reports on the impact of GM canola in Australia. According to Dr Rob Norton from the University of Melbourne, the reports showed that the great bulk of GM canola is sold at similar prices to conventional canola in most major canola markets throughout the world. The key findings of the report were: n an extra 225,000 hectares of canola could be grown using conservation farming practices; n 640 tonnes less triazine herbicide would be used each year; n average Australian canola yields would increase from 1.17 tonnes a hectare to 1.28t/ha, with an increase in canola production estimated at 295,000t annually; and n wheat production would increase by 80,000t on the additional canola area. In addition to the University of Melbourne report, a long-term trial conducted by Charles Sturt University has demonstrated the potential yield and profit advantages that a GM canola variety offers Australian graingrowers. The trial compared the yield and economic performance of a GM, herbicide-tolerant canola variety with conventional canola varieties over a typical five-year crop rotation system. The trial found that GM Roundup Ready® canola consistently delivered superior weed control, higher yields and oil quality, and greater profits when compared with common canola varieties grown under conventional weed-management systems. Moreover, the trial showed that there was better weed control throughout the five-year crop rotation using Roundup Ready® canola in the first year of the rotation, and any subsequent volunteer canola was easily controlled. More information: www.csu .edu.au/news; www.jcci.unimelb.edu.au/canola2007.html THE REPORT NOTES THAT IF GM CANOLA WAS AdOPTEd ON MORE THAN HALF THE CuRRENT CANOLA GROWING AREA THERE WOuLd bE SubSTANTIAL ECONOMIC ANd ENvIRONMENTAL bENEFITS.
Ground Cover 071 November-December 2007 - North
Ground Cover 073 March-April 2008 - North