The NSW Government has announced that a moratorium on genetically modified (GM) food crops will be lifted in the state from 1 July 2021, ending an 18-year ban. Professor Brent Kaiser, Plant Breeding and Production research leader, Sydney Institute of Agriculture said:
“GM canola and GM safflower are the only approved genetically modified grain crops grown in Australia. GM cotton has been grown extensively across NSW for many years. The lifting of the moratorium will provide growers new opportunities to diversify crop rotations to take advantage of GM enhanced traits such as herbicide tolerance or the building of novel products such as oils with elevated omega-3 (canola oil) or high oleic acid levels (safflower).
“The lifting of the moratorium will not see a landslide of new GM crops grown in NSW tomorrow as the approval process for any GM food is extensive in light of the safety expectations required by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR).
“Although the introduction of new GM Foods may take some time, a significant benefit in lifting the moratorium will be our ability to explore novel genetic editing tools to help crop plants more reliably manage increased threats of drought, heat and salinity as well as respond to select disease and pest pressures.”
Professor Richard Trethowan, Director of the Narrabri Plant Breeding Institute said:
“The lifting of this moratorium in NSW now means that we have a national approach to GM. While this will give oil seed farmers a greater range of options, I don’t see any radical change in our main export crops, such as wheat and barley, on the horizon. International market constraints, the importance of these crops for food security and the lack of any real ‘game changing’ transgenes simply makes this a step too far.
“Nevertheless, it is great to see that plant breeders will at least have another tool in the genetic toolbox to tackle adaptation in our increasingly variable environment.”