19/11/2008 - 22:00

GM move prompts calls for Ord Stage II

19/11/2008 - 22:00

Bookmark

Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

THE state government has lifted the moratorium on the commercial production of genetically modified cotton in the Ord River Irrigation Area, renewing calls for it to move on the Ord Stage Two project.

GM move prompts calls for Ord Stage II

THE state government has lifted the moratorium on the commercial production of genetically modified cotton in the Ord River Irrigation Area, renewing calls for it to move on the Ord Stage Two project.

Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman gave GM cotton the green light this week, saying it would boost the prospects for a major expansion of the region.

The announcement comes more than a decade after trials of GM cotton in the ORIA began under the supervision of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, Department of Agriculture and Food and CSIRO.

About 1,000 hectares of GM cotton have already been planted on a number of farms in the area as part of field trials.

Ord Irrigation Cooperative chief executive Geoff Strickland said the group was pleased the moratorium had been lifted.

"GM cotton, in particular, has been strongly researched and has been so successful elsewhere in Australia, farmers felt discriminated against by not having it on their list of options," he said.

Now the moratorium had been removed, Mr Strickland said the biggest impediment to developing a viable GM cotton industry in the Ord was the availability of land.

"The key is opening up more land in the Ord Stage Two area, once you have the land there's opportunities for new industries," he said.

If the Ord Stage Two was expanded to a reasonable scale, roughly 16,000ha, it was more likely that it would attract national cotton growers to the region.

Late last month, Premier Colin Barnett named the $393 million Ord Stage Two project as one of the state's top five strategic projects.

Mr Barnett said the staged development of Ord Stage Two could start in mid-2009, with the government looking to contribute $195 million to the project.

WAFarmers chief executive Andy McMillan commended the decision, saying the decision should pave the way for GM canola trials.

"WAFarmers applauds the minister's focus on scientific evidence rather than emotional campaigns in making his decision to allow commercial plantings of GM cotton in the Ord region," he said.

The Conservation Council of WA has condemned the decision."We will lose our reputation as a clean, green state for agricultural production," director Piers Verstegen said in a statement.

"There are still too many questions that remain unanswered, such as the impact of GM cotton on soil, plus the fact that in other countries cotton pests have developed a resistance to the Bt cotton technology."

Mr Verstegen added the suggestion that GM cotton, as a fibre crop, will not end up in food was false, saying cottonseed is pressed for oil and is used as an ingredient in margarines and cooking oils.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options