1.AUSTRALIAN SCIENTISTS DEVELOP NON-GM DROUGHT TOLERANT CANOLA
2.GM APPROACH DOESN'T WORK WITH RICE VIRUS
GM WATCH COMMENT: As Australian farmers grapple with the current record-breaking lack of rainfall, Australia's Agriculture Minister, Peter McGauran, and a coterie of pro-GM lobbyists are trying to exploit the drought by demanding an end to the GM moratorium operated by Australia's state governments.
The Australian press reported this week, "The states have been told to lift their moratorium on genetically modified crops as Australia grapples with the harshest drought in a century... Mr McGauran said there was only a 5 to 10 per cent chance of rain breaking the drought, and GM technology could be a boon." (Lift ban on GM crops, states told, The Australian, October 4 2006) http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20521505-2702,00.html
The former head of the South Australian Farmers Federation, John Lush, recently went still further, claiming, "drought-resistant GM crops could save farmers millions of dollars."
And "GMO Pundit", a.k.a. GM-zealot David Tribe, has been highlighting on his blog an article that makes it look like the US is laughing all the way to the bank, while Australia suffers, thanks to GM, "ONLY IN AMERICA: GM crops saving farm economy from drought."
The only problem with this onslaught is that it's based on deceit. The article Tribe highlights is a vacuous and misleading propaganda piece from the rightwing Heartland Institute, which fights climate-change science and regulations on smoking just as vigorously as it promotes GM.
And McGuaran and Lush's claims of massive benefits denied to drought stricken Australian farmers are equally cynical. Although there's been talk for many years about the wonders of drought-resistant GM crops, Robert Horsch, Monsanto's vice president, has admitted that such crops are actually not so easy to develop, while Christopher Horner, another Monsanto spokesman, has admitted such crops are years away from commercial production. He also admits that when they do finally become available, it will be "in the United States... well before they become available in other countries."
And these Monsanto time frames for GM crops able to thrive despite scant rainfall may themselves be no more than industry hype. According to Professor Tim Flowers of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sussex, commercially available drought-tolerant and salt-tolerant GM crops could be decades away, if they ever come at all.
"Evaluation of claims that biotechnology can produce salt-tolerant crops reveals that, after ten years of research using transgenic plants to alter salt tolerance, the value of this approach has yet to be established in the field. Biotechnologists have reasons for exaggerating their abilities to manipulate plants
"If 'biotechnology' is to contribute tolerant crops, these crops may still be decades from commercial availability. The generation of drought tolerant crops is likely to have a similar period of development."
And the real joke is that while the pro-GM lobbyists pretend GM can already solve problems that conventional approaches can't tackle, conventional plant breeding is already starting to deliver the goods for Australian farmers.
Two months ago the Minister for Innovation in the Australian state of Victoria announced that a new species of non-GM drought tolerant canola had been developed and field-trialled "that could make up to 1.5 million hectares of drought prone farmland in Australia more productive and profitable." (item 1)
Note also that the traditional breeding of this new species of drought tolerant canola was accelerated by the deployment of molecular marker assisted selection - an intelligent deployment of biotechnology that does not involve GM, and so avoids all its uncertainties and market-damaging potential.
Please also note how in the second article below - on resistance to a damaging rice virus - the GM approach was found to be ineffective.
EXTRACT FROM ITEM 2: "The results show that the transgenic plants have only partial [virus] resistance, and for only a short time, and can even end up with a heightened susceptibility. In the particular case of the rice/RYMV interaction, the strategy of introducing a viral gene by transgenic techniques does not bring any advantages compared with the use of natural resistance." (item 2)
1. VICTORIAN SCIENTISTS DEVELOP DROUGHT TOLERANT CANOLA
FROM THE MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Victorian scientists have developed a new species of drought tolerant canola that could make up to 1.5 million hectares of drought prone farmland in Australia more productive and profitable, the Minister for Innovation, John Brumby, announced today.
Mr Brumby said Department of Primary Industry (DPI) scientists, together with collaborative international partners, the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool have used enhanced traditional breeding and molecular marker assisted selection to refine the yield and quality of juncea canola.
Announcing the research as part of the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) 2006 currently being held in Melbourne, Mr Brumby said the scientific breakthrough had come at an opportune tim
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