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Gene revolution comes to the farm

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M ed ia R elease


5 February 1998

GPO Box 1563, Canberra ACT 2601 Telephone (02) 6272 2000 Facsimile (02) 6272 2001

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Gene r ' " is to the farm

‘The genetic engineering revolution is out of the laboratory and into the marketplace’, M r Max Foster, Principal Research Officer from ABARE’s Agriculture Branch said in Canberra today.

Speaking at the genetic engineering session of the OUTLOOK 1998 conference, Mr Foster said that ‘new gene technology is starting to live up to its much touted potential to deliver greater productivity in agriculture’.

‘However, its full impact is still uncertain due mainly to doubts about consumer acceptance of products made from genetically modified organisms’, he said.

‘Furthermore, public concerns that genetically modified products could pose threats to the environment and to human health might indicate a need for government involvement to regulate their use, he added.

Dr Jim Peacock, Chief, Plant Industry CSDRO warned that ‘the strength of large multinational companies in plant gene technologies is beginning to restrict the development and adoption of Australian agricultural research’.

However, he said that, ‘because of the excellence and achievements of Australian plant science research there is an opportunity for Australia to gain effective entry into these global businesses’.

‘Australian researchers will be able to use both intellectual property and germplasm as bargaining chips and this could help to generate a strategic alliance between a major multinational, an Australian public research institution and an Australian company’.

Ms Andina Faragher, Secretary of the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee, told the conference that ‘the Commonwealth considers that there is now a need for a comprehensive statutory regulation of gene technology, but that this should not imply substantial changes to existing regulations’.

Ms Faragher said that discussions between Commonwealth and State governments over these regulations, will involve direct consultation with industry, consumer and environmental organisations.

‘This will ensure that the regulations provide continued assurance of protection of human health, agriculture and the natural environment, as well as facilitating the efficient development and use of gene technology’, she said.

Speakers at the session, ‘Genetic engineering: Implications for Australian agriculture’, were: Mr Max Foster, Principal Research Officer, ABARE; Ms Andina Faragher, Secretary, Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee; Dr Jim Peacock, Chief, Plant Industry, CSIRO.

For further information, contact: During the Conference, Sharon Palmer, OUTLOOK Media Centre on (02) 6276 5242 or 018 487 825; After the Conference, Max Foster, ABARE on (02) 6272 2095. ABARE thanks Apple Computer as the major sponsor of OUTLOOK 98.