Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 064 September-October 2006 - North
NSW FARMERS VOTE IN FAVOUR OF GM n The New South Wales Farmers’ Association (NSWFA) held its annual conference on 18 July, and four motions were debated and passed in relation to genetically modified (GM) crops. In brief, the motions were that the association: n lobby the Primary Industries Ministerial Council to set adventitious presence levels of GM for all crops; n investigate the development of a practical, objective and inexpensive on-farm GM detection test; n implement a farmer education and awareness campaign regarding GM canola before the end of the current moratorium; and n call for the immediate lifting of the moratorium on GM crops in NSW. The Producers Forum, a group of farmers lobbying for timely access to agricultural biotechnologies for the economic, social and environmental benefit of all Australians, welcomed the NSWFA decision. Jeff Bidstrup, Producers Forum national convenor, said: “The fact that the NSW Farmers’ Association, representing 11,000 members, upheld a motion calling for the end to the state moratoria on GM crops is an overwhelming indicator from grassroots producers that they are ready to seize control of their farming system decisions. “Coupled with support from others such as the National Farmers’ Federation and the peak grain body, the Grains Council of Australia, all is in order to allow Australian farmers to move forward to compete with the 8.5 million farmers in 21 countries that produce GM crops.” More information: www.nswfarmers.org.au and www.producersforum.net.au UNAPPROVED GM RICE FOUND IN US MARKET n Bayer CropScience has notified the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) that trace amounts of an unapproved herbicide-tolerant GM rice variety they developed has been detected in samples taken from commercial long grain rice. Preliminary reports have not outlined how the GM variety came to be present in the US rice supply, or the extent of its presence. According to a statement issued by the USDA, the rice, LLRICE 601, was modified to tolerate applications of glufosinate ammonium. It contains the same protein as other GM products developed by Bayer that are available commercially under the name LibertyLinkTM . Because this protein has been used in a number of GM products approved globally, the protein has been repeatedly and thoroughly scientifically reviewed and used safely in food and feed, cultivation and import in the US, as well as in other countries, including Australia. “Based on the available data and information, the USFDA has concluded that the presence of LLRICE 601 in the food and feed supply poses no safety concerns,” said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. “USDA’s Animal and Plant and Heath Inspection Service (APHIS) also conducted a risk assessment, which indicates LLRICE 601 is safe in the environment.” The GM rice developed by Bayer was field-tested in the US between 1998 and 2001. Commercial approvals for this LibertyLink® rice were not sought by Bayer at that time. APHIS will now finalise the approval process and investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. The USDA is working to provide the marketplace with tests to detect the presence of the LibertyLink® protein in rice. Market responses are still evolving. The European Commission has announced that it now requires imports of all long grain rice from the US to be certified as free from the unauthorised GM variety by an accredited laboratory using a validated testing method. More information: www.usda.gov in ‘Newsroom’; www.europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do? reference=IP/06/1120&format=HTML&aged= 0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en LUCERNE THE LATEST GM CROP TO GO COMMERCIAL n Herbicide-tolerant GM lucerne (alfalfa) is now available to farmers in the US. The crop received commercial approval last year and is available as part of a limited domestic release (between 20,000 to 30,000 hectares) in its first year of production. The benefits of GM lucerne are claimed to be fewer weeds, resulting in better- quality hay, and better-quality feed. Import approvals for the GM lucerne are being finalised in key export markets. As part of this process an application has been received by Australia’s food regulatory agency, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), to assess the GM lucerne for potential use in the human food chain. The GM lucerne is tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate. It is intended principally for animal feed and is not intended for cultivation in either Australia or New Zealand. As there are some minor food uses of lucerne (primarily as alfalfa sprouts and in teas), FSANZ has undertaken a safety assessment of the lucerne. If approved, food from the GM lucerne may be imported into Australia and New Zealand. The product was developed by Monsanto in conjunction with Forage Genetics. More information: www.foodstandards.gov. au/_srcfiles/A575%20Glyphosate-toler- ant%20Lucerne%20DAR%20FINAL.doc GM FEED SAFE FOR ANIMALS AND MEAT, MILK AND EGGS n The latest verdict on GM animal feed safety reinforces the findings of all the research on this topic to date, that “meat, milk and eggs produced from farm animals fed GM crops are as wholesome, safe and nutritious as similar products produced by animals fed conventional crops”. An international taskforce of scientific experts from the UK, Germany, the US and Brazil considered the issue in the latest Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) information paper. The objectives were to provide an overview of the regulatory assessments of GM crops and summarise the empirical data generated for assessing the safety of meat, milk and eggs from animals fed GM crops that express agronomic input traits (such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance), which comprise the only GM crops available currently. GM varieties of soybean, corn, cotton and canola are now grown over 90 million hectares globally and are therefore an increasingly important component of animal feed rations. Combined with the fact that milk, meat and eggs globally represent about one-sixth of human food energy and one-third of human food protein, the CAST taskforce considered the question “Is the GM-derived crop as safe as a conventional crop?” as pertinent in its series of information looking at the future of animal agriculture through biotechnology. GRDC Research Code AAA00005 More information: www.cast-science.org Commentary GROUND COVER SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER 2006 28 THE GENE SCENE BY PAULA FITZGERALD GMOs and gene technology in Australia Agrifoods Awareness Australia Limited QUESTION 1: Are you likely to eat ... (% of respondents) Ver y likely Likely Neither Unlikely Very unlikely Any GM food? 9 28 9 28 26 Packaged food containing one GM ingredient, such as soy or GM canola oil? 11 37 8 25 19 GM cooking oils that contain less cholesterol? 14 34 8 24 20 Vegetables modified with plant genes for drought resistance? 11 29 10 29 21 QUESTION 2: Do you support ... (% of respondents) Strongly suppor t Support Neither Oppose Strongly oppose Regulation of GM crops by the government? 34 33 11 13 9 Labelling of GM foods for choice? 67 23 4 4 3 Research into which GM crops suit Australian climates? 34 35 9 11 11 Growing GM crops separately to non-GM crops? 30 33 11 13 12 Trialling GM crops to see if they are suitable for Australian climates? 27 43 7 13 11 n According to the latest market research results on public attitudes about GM foods released by Australian Government agency Biotechnology Australia, attitudes change significantly depending on the type of food being considered. The survey of 1410 people was conducted by ACNielson, and according to Craig Cormick, manager of public awareness for Biotechnology Australia, people claim they are more likely to eat packaged foods containing GM ingredients and GM cooking oils than they are likely to eat GM vegetables (none of which are available commercially at this stage). According to the media release, the survey found that while 37 per cent of people stated they were likely to eat any type of GM food, when the question was asked in terms of the actual GM foods that are available, the responses changed. Forty-eight per cent of respondents stated they were likely to eat packaged food containing a small amount of a GM ingredient such as GM soy or GM canola, and 48 per cent stated they were likely to eat GM cooking oils. These results and more are outlined above. More information: www.biotechnology.gov.au/reports AUSTRALIAN ATTITUDES DEPEND ON FOOD TYPE 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. GM canola: globally, an increasingly important component of animal feed.
Ground Cover 065 November-December 2006 - North
Ground Cover 063 August 2006 - North