GM ‘no sugar threat’

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Angelique Pat­ter­son

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.’’

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