By Boyd Champness

AUSTRALIAs top farm leader has warned that Australia risks losing export markets if it rushes into producing genetically modified crops.

National Farmers Federation president Mr Ian Donges told The Weekly Times last week that consumer acceptance of GM products was still two to three years away and that Australia should cash in on its GM-free status in the meantime.

“It is the technology of the future. But the benefits are still well down the track, at least two or three years away,” he told the newspaper.

“There has been a consumer backlash in the EU and in Japan, and agricultural producers in the USA, Canada and Argentina are looking to go back to GM-free production.

“We believe it is not time yet to go into full-scale production (of GM crops); our customers are not ready for them.

“Meanwhile, we have a market advantage by keeping GM-free,” he said.

Mr Donges said his organisation would continue to support field trials but called for an end to the secrecy on their location.

This follows the recent controversy where GM plant material was allegedly dumped by science company Aventis at a commercial rubbish tip near the South Australian town of Mount Gambier – sparking fears of cross-contamination with weeds.

He told The Weekly Times the trials did not have to be widely publicised, but farmers and industry groups involved should be informed.

“After all, its their industries at stake,” he said.