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2011 Autumn - Can agriculture manage a genetically modified future

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FPJ0801 - Kingwell, Farmers' use of genetically modified crops, trends and issues for Australia

Between 1996 and 2009 there has been an approximately 80-fold increase in the global area sown to genetically modified (GM) crops. In 25 countries about 14 million farmers now grow GM crops. Although a majority of the farmer population grow crops with an insect resistance trait, the more important trait affecting a larger global crop area is herbicide tolerance. As China and India embrace GM crop technology the area sown to GM crops worldwide will increase substantially. GM crops with multiple (or stacked) traits are becoming increasingly common and are now grown in 11 countries.
Aside from GM cotton, Australian farmers’ use of GM crops has been limited, although work is now underway on a range of GM traits in major crops. Public attitudes against GM crops in Australia appear to have softened and Australia’s slowness to embrace GM crops has not strongly disadvantaged it.
Two key issues surround the likely greater use of GM crops in Australia. The first is the threat of misuse of herbicide-tolerant crops that could cause the development of herbicide-resistant weeds. The second issue involves the future industrial organisation of plant variety provision in Australia. If multinational biotechnology firms enter and dominate the Australian marketplace then competition regulators will need to ensure that the pricing and other commercial behaviour of these firms complies with competition principles, otherwise Australian farmers could be disadvantaged.
Kingwell, R - Farmers' use of genetically modified crops: trends and issues for Australia
Farm Policy Journal Autumn 2011, Volume 8, Number 1, pp. 1-9

 

Biotechnology, GM, GMO, Genetically modified agriculture, Australia

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