CSU GM canola study in the news

A press release about a Charles Sturt University 1999 to 2003 GM canola study generated reporting by the Rural Press in FarmOnline  ‘Report says GM Canola in front’  (13 Nov.) and The Land  ‘CSU research supports GM canola’  by Alan Dick(15 Nov.). The first one is shown at the bottom of this page.

But first is a letter-to-the-editor from Maarten Stapper criticising the pro-GM interpretations of the limited research results. The letter was published as ‘Research figures fatally flawed’  in the Stock & Land of 29 November 2007, ‘Research doubts’  in The Land of 6 December 2007, and  ‘Uni research incomplete’  in The Weekly Times of 12 December 2007.

SIR: Many questions arise from CSU’s “first and only long term crop system research” involving GM canola.

What system research? What about the omission of GM technology fee? What about acceleration of weed resistance? Segregation? Control of GM volunteers or long-term, multi-generational safety?

The trial evaluated the impact of either conventional, Triazine Tolerant (TT) or Roundup Ready GM canola as a first crop followed by wheat, lupins and wheat in a four-year rotation.

Real systems research would evaluate these canola options in space (different places) and time (different years).           

Here GM canola was evaluated in only one year of a four year rotation. This made the results very dependent on paddock choice and likely weeds, which appeared to be mostly annual ryegrass.

What if wild radish had been present for which case TT is recommended?  Patterson’s curse and cape weed affected the conventional treatment, but these are controlled in a commercial crop.           

GM was declared the most profitable, but the average gross margin during four years for the best treatment (pre- and post-emergent) was only $7 a hectare higher for GM compared with TT.

The second best treatment (pre-emergent) had TT $59/ha more profitable than GM. However, in commercial conditions these GM results would be worse, as a technology fee was not included in the calculations.           

Weed scientists say every Roundup spray increases the risk of weed resistance and the CSU report warns “post-emergent selective herbicide will need to be well managed to preserve its effectiveness for its traditional role”.  

Why increase the risk!

The report states that Roundup is better for the environment. However, Spray Seed was used in subsequent years to control voluntary RR GM plants.

Segregation between crops is impossible. By 2003, 50% of Canadian registered seed of non-GM canola varieties was contaminated with GMs. GM should pay all extra costs!

Dr Maarten Stapper, Belconnen ACT

Report says GM canola in front
13 November 2007

A long-term trial has demonstrated the potential yield and profit advantages that a genetically modified (GM) canola variety offers Australian grain growers.  These results are adding to the call to lift the current moratorium on growing GM canola commercially in Australia.

Conducted by Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) Professor Jim Pratley at the EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation at Wagga Wagga, NSW, the yield and economic performance of a GM herbicide tolerant canola variety was compared with conventional canola varieties over a typical five-year crop rotation system.

Professor Pratley believes this is the first long-term crop system research undertaken to evaluate GM herbicide tolerant canola in crop rotations under Australian field conditions.

“In the research undertaken at CSU, Roundup Ready® canola consistently delivered superior weed control, higher yields and oil quality,” he said.  “It delivered better profits when compared with current common canola varieties grown under conventional weed management systems.

“Moreover, there was better weed control throughout the five year crop rotation using Roundup Ready canola in the first year of the rotation. “Any subsequent volunteer canola was also easily controlled.”

Professor Pratley said the project was conducted under the strict protocols and conditions applied by the national Office of the Gene Technology Regulator to obtain local data on the performance of the GM variety in Australia.

He said there is much to be gained by allowing the commercial production of GM canola. “Repealing the current moratoria will significantly advantage canola growers,” he said. “It will allow them to capture the efficiency and economic benefits of technology that their Canadian competitors have exploited for over ten years.”

“GM herbicide tolerant canola has been widely grown in Canada since 1996. “It made up 82pc of the 2005 crop. “However, it has not been assessed in long-term Australian conservation farming systems until now.”

In submitting the study to the NSW, Victorian and South Australian Government’s GM moratoria Review Panels, the CSU researchers recommended, “The Government repeal the current moratorium on the commercial scale growing of GM canola, as a matter of priority.”  This view supports the position of the broader grains industry published in the document, Delivering market choice with GM canola.

Endorsed by 29 organisations representing all sectors of the grain supply chain, the document outlines the processes and protocols by which industry would manage GM canola if the State moratoria were lifted.

SOURCE: Breaking national grains news from Rural Press


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