2017 Winter - Twenty years on, the GM debate continues

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FPJ1402C - Fitzgerald, P (2017), Gene Technology – Public Perception, Community Values and the Public Relations Machine. Has Agriculture Taken the Community on the Journey?

FPJ1402C - Fitzgerald, P (2017), Gene Technology – Public Perception, Community Values and the Public Relations Machine. Has Agriculture Taken the Community on the Journey?, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 14, no. 2, Autumn 2017, pp. 7-17, Surry Hills, Australia.

Gene technology has delivered significant advances in both human health and agriculture. Australian cotton and canola farmers have embraced new varieties with in-built protection against pests and herbicide resistance delivering improved weed control. Researchers across the country continue to explore the possibilities offered by new traits and also look to utilise new genetic techniques, but will these new varieties make it to the marketplace and into farmers’ hands?

The commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) canola was a mighty battle. The first challenge was for the grain supply chain to come together and work, collaboratively, through the technical logistics presented by this new oilseed crop. While the industry focused on this, media and community interest grew and a well-resourced activist campaign was launched. At the height of the GM canola debate resources were allocated to provide science-based information, manage issues and feed the media interest. Measuring public perceptions and community engagement were key pillars of the communication initiatives.

Twenty years on, the opportunity exists for Australian agriculture to learn from the ‘GM journey’ and build on an existing model to ensure community acceptance and underpin agriculture’s social licence for the future.

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