The grains side of GROWING SA 2018 will have a strong focus on exploring how genetically modified crops can fit into South Australian production systems, in advance of the independent review of the moratorium to be conducted later this year.
Set for Friday 14 September at the Adelaide Hills Convention Centre, Hahndorf, delegates at the GROWING SA Conference will have the opportunity to hear from a renowned Canadian scientist and a Victorian grower on their perspectives of GM crops.
Dr Stuart Smyth is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and holds the Industry Funded Chair in Agri-Food Innovation at the University of Saskatchewan.
His research focuses on innovation and agriculture and the resulting impacts.
In 2009, Dr Smyth was part of a group of academics which received $5.4 million in funding over five years from Genome Canada to examine the genomic, economic, environmental, ethical, legal and social issues pertaining to bioproducts and biofuels.
Dr Smyth will speak at GROWING SA thanks to the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia on how GM crops have revolutionised the production systems and marketing options of Canadian growers.
“Probably the lead environmental discovery of my research is the substantial environmental benefits offered by GM crops, particularly GM canola,” Dr Smyth said.
“Farmers in Saskatchewan have been no-till farming for 15-20 years and in some instances have reported adding up to six inches of soil depth to their fields through the continual application of post-harvest residues.
“Based on my research, the production of GM crops is the most sustainable way to produce crops in existence and especially when compared to the environmental damage caused by the production of organic crops that continue to rely on tillage for weed control.”
Dr Smyth says production systems in Canada are considerably more sustainable now than what they were 20 years ago when GM crops were first commercialised.
“Prior to GM crops, there were no effective means of weed control that could allow farmers to be in a continuous no-till rotation for more than a few years at most,” he said.
“With GM crops, farmers were able to get the sustained effective weed control that allowed fields to remain in continuous no-till.
“For example, in Saskatchewan, 12 million acres of summer fallow have been removed over the past 25 years. This has a significant environmental impact as crop agriculture has gone from a net emitter of greenhouse gases to a net GHG sink.”
Delegates at GROWING SA will also hear from Victorian grower Andrew Weidemann, Rupanyup, who was the first grower in Australia to trial GM canola on his property.
Since that first trial in 2003, GM canola – particularly RoundUp Ready canola – has become an integral part of the crop rotation, according to Andrew, and has had no impact on how they market their grain.
“We originally went to North America because of my inquisitive nature towards new technology,” he said.
“I was involved in the Birchip Cropping Group where we had done a lot of work around herbicide resistance management and my personal view after talking with plant breeders was that we had the opportunity to look at how we could position the industry against herbicide resistance.
“The first part of doing that was to have resistance management training for growers, the second was to have new technology to help with resistance management – RoundUp Ready canola.”
The decision to grow GM canola for over a decade on their property has had no impact on the way Andrew and his brother Rodney market their grain.
In fact, the Weidemanns have established premium markets both domestically and locally for their produce, all while growing GM canola.
Locally, Andrew was the face of an advertising campaign for Carlton and United Breweries’ Crown Lager in 2013.
This came after the family was approached by Barrett Burston Maltings in 2004 looking to produce a new barley variety to go into the Japanese market with full traceability. Japan is still one of the key markets for the Weidemanns’ barley where it is used in two of the country’s leading premium beers, Sapporo and Asahi.
“To be frank and honest, the decision to grow GM crops has not changed any aspects of our grain marketing,” Andrew said.
“Everything is segregated in our on-farm storage, as all the different grains and varieties are.
“Our clean down procedures are the same. The fact we grow GM canola doesn’t even come into consideration when we sell our premium barley.
“It hasn’t been anything but business as usual for us.”
Delegates at the 2018 GROWING SA Conference on 14 September will have the opportunity to hear Andrew describe his own personal experience growing GM crops, the benefits he has seen in his farming system and how co-existence with non-GM crops is achievable.