Winter 2017, Vol. 14, No. 2

Twenty years on, the GM debate continues

The 20-year anniversary of the release of the first commercial genetically modified (GM) crops in Australia in 1996 provides an opportunity to review the progress of GM crops, the extent to which they have or have not delivered on their promise, and likely future developments in genetic modification. Papers included in this edition of the Journal provide a variety of different perspectives on GM crops and their legacy and future in Australia.
Images: Nicola Cottee, IRRI, United Soybean Boar
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The GMO Advocacy Effort – A Farmer’s Perspective

Hugh Roberts

I have been asked to write about my experiences in being an advocate for GMO policy in Australia. I have always been committed to the application of rational thought and science to policy debates, and the development and adoption of GMOs over the last 20 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Starting with an initial planting of 1.7 million hectares in 1996, there has been an incredible one-hundred-fold increase in area sown to GM crops since the start of commercialisation. In 2015, the area sown to GM crops was 179.7 million hectares. As a result, GM crops are considered to be the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture. Buy now

Gene Technology – Public Perception, Community Values and the Public Relations Machine. Has Agriculture Taken the Community on the Journey?

Paula Fitzgerald

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? Buy now

The Future of Crop Improvement with Genome Editing Technology

Armin Scheben and David Edwards

The rate of crop improvement must increase to meet the demands of a growing population. Although conventional breeding has delivered today’s high-yielding crops, genome editing technologies now offer a faster and more precise approach to generate novel crop varieties. If genomics can provide high-quality crop genome assemblies and functional annotation as starting material, genome editing has the potential to accelerate crop improvement and broaden the range of traits generated in novel varieties. Genome editing can provide a powerful new tool to shape the future of agriculture and support global food security. Buy now

Reframing GM Communication: From Deficit to Discussion and Engagement

Heather J Bray and Rachel A Ankeny

Most of our efforts in science communication about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been based on the idea that if people ‘understood the science’, then they’d be more accepting of the technologies associated with GM. This idea, known as the ‘deficit model’, has been widely refuted in the research literature, and yet it persists as a dominant form of communication about genetically modified (GM) technologies. Buy now

Biotechnology for Changing Practice

Nicola Cottee

Australia’s cotton industry has been one of the global success stories in the application and stewardship of transgenic biotechnology to deliver productivity and sustainability gains. Prompted to adopt new pest management approaches in part to answer social licence challenges – which began in the 1980s and lingered over the following decades – the industry rapidly adopted transgenic insecticidal (Bt) cotton varieties in the 1990s, followed by transgenic herbicide tolerant cotton varieties in the 2000s. Buy now

Why are Genetic Modification and Organic Incompatible?

Tim Marshall

Organic farmers operate in compliance with national and international standards that forbid the conscious or negligent use of genetic modification (GM). The organic community applies the precautionary principle to all inputs and practices, and has yet to see compelling evidence that GM is an appropriate technology for solving multi-factorial production problems. Buy now