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SYDNEY (AFP) ? The advent of genetically modified (GM) cotton has produced
major environmental as well as economic benefits by slashing the use of
destructive pesticides, an independent report showed, August 2004 .
Compiled by a team from the University of Sydney, the report found GM
cotton had led to the use by farmers of other products which were much more
tolerable to native animals.
GM cotton now accounts for more than 50 percent of the total Australian
cotton crop, with plants modified to make them resistant to particular
herbicides or to attacks from certain insects.
But farmers' leaders fear that a series of bans by Australian state
governments on commercial trials of GM canola because of perceived health
risks will hamper research and development of a product with huge potential.
Report authors Angus Crossan and Ivan Kennedy said their study of Roundup
Ready cotton -- a GM cotton resistant to the broadacre herbicide Roundup --
had found major environmental benefits from the crop.
They said it was clear in the case of GM cotton, the environment was safer
because of the new technology.
"The field results confirm that it is possible to achieve both economic and
environmental benefits from the use of this genetically modified crop," they
Kennedy said apart from the environmental risk, farmers had quickly taken up
GM cotton because of its economic benefits.
"The use of glyphosate (Roundup) in combination with other low-risk
herbicides for weed control proves an opportunity to significantly reduce
the risk of off-site herbicide contamination in Australian cotton
production," he said in a statement.
National Farmers' Federation president and cotton grower Peter Corish said
the advent of GM technology had been a huge environmental benefit.
"For the Australian cotton industry, it's been an extreme benefit because
it's allowed us to very much reduce our conventional pesticide use, by well
in excess of 50 per cent and that trend continues," he told reporters.
"We now have improved varieties as a result of biotechnology and we see that
Corish said he feared a series of moratoria introduced by state governments
on commercial trials of GM canola would hold back Australian farmers.
While conceding there could be advantages by retaining GM-free crops, he
said Australia also had to examine genetically altered products.
"My greatest concern is that if no clear path to commercialisation for new
GM technologies exist, Australia's ability to attract and retain world class
research and development will be significantly hampered, stifling innovation
and reducing our competitiveness within global markets," he said.
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