GM ‘no sugar threat’
GENETICALLY modified sugar cane could become the future with field trials currently under way across Queensland, including the Far North.
The trials from BSES Limited started in 2009 after gaining approval by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator for a six-year licence.
BSES manager for variety improvement program Dr Frikkie Botha said and after the successful completion of the first phase of the project and passing two reviews, a request has been submitted to extend the trial until 2019, including at Meringa, near Gordonvale.
‘‘GM technology adds new characteristics to sugar cane that cannot be achieved through conventional breeding,’’ he said.
‘‘The majority of the current international work on GM sugarcane is focussed on three traits - insect resistance, herbicide resistance and sugar content and composition.
‘‘None of the genes being used to confer the above mentioned traits pose any health concerns.
‘‘All major sugar producing countries throughout the world have GM sugarcane in field trials. It is generally accepted that those countries that do not succeed in this technology will fall behind in international competitiveness.’’
Mossman Canegrowers chairman Drew Watson was surprised trials were already happening but welcomed them and did not believe they posed a threat to the industry.
‘‘Genes are in proteins and sugar is pure carbohydrate so sugar does not have anything genetically modified in it, GM sugarcane does not produce any different sugar,’’ he said.
Mr Watson said it is important growers are up with the latest technology in sugar cane.
‘‘We have to go down this track of testing, if another country produces a variety better than ours that is accepted in the market place, we have to be ready for that,’’ he said.
‘‘Whether or not it is commercially viable is going to be dictated by the market and we have to educate the market.’’