By Boyd Champness
IRRESPONSIBLE and irrational comment from green and consumer groups on biotechnology could deny Australian farmers their right to be competitive, Australian Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss has warned.
Mr Truss said the rising heat surrounding the biotechnology debate was being fed by irresponsible and irrational comment and needed to be dampened down, according to a report in The Weekly Times.
“It is simply not responsible to deny our farmers access to this new technology,” he said in response to a call by green and some consumer groups for Australia to ban biotechnology.
“We need to understand fully the cost to our economy if we fail to take up the challenge to increase the productivity of more reliable, better quality food supplies,” he said.
Mr Truss said segregating and labelling genetically modified products from farm to marketplace was impractical, and the high cost would eventually be borne by farmers.
“There is a moral question here as well,” Mr Truss said. “Why should we deny starving people food because we are led astray by over-emotive claims.”
Meanwhile, the National Farmers Federation has warned that Australian farmers are already starting to fall behind in the race to grow genetically modified crops.
The NFF says scare campaigns by green and consumer groups, regulatory barriers and the failure of the Federal Government and industry to adequately invest in agricultural biotechnology all need to be solved before Australian farmers can even begin the GM crop race.
“Australias performance to date shows we are rapidly being left behind,” the NFF told a hearing of the federal inquiry into primary producer access to gene technology in Melbourne.
According to the newspaper, the NFF said US farmers were growing 22 different transgenic crops, which accounted for 74% of their total production, followed by Argentina (15%) and Canada (10%).
In comparison, Australian farmers had access to only two transgenic crops, which accounted for less than 1% of global plantings.
The International Service for the acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications estimates the global market for transgenic crops will be worth A$25 billion (£10bn) by 2010.
The NFF said deficiencies in the regulatory process such as slow assessment and release of transgenic crops was partly to blame for Australias poor performance.