NEWS GM ba­nana trial for NT

Sunday Territorian - - NEWS - KIERAN BANKS

A SIX-hectare plot of land in Litch­field Shire could be the scene for the de­vel­op­ment of a new ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied type of dis­ease re­sis­tant ba­nana.

Re­searchers from Queens­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy want to use the site to trial lines of fruit re­sis­tant to fun­gal dis­ease fusar­ium wilt. It’s ex­pected the trial will take place 20172022.

One Na­tion leader Pauline Han­son yes­ter­day spoke out about the trial, say­ing there were bet­ter ways to pro­tect the ba­nana and farm­ers.

“Rather than ge­net­i­cally mess with our nat­u­ral food prod­ucts to pre­vent dis­ease, let’s con­tinue to pro­tect farm­ers from im­ported fruit and veg­eta­bles that risk de­stroy­ing our agri­cul­tural in­dus­try,’’ Sen­a­tor Han­son said.

“I don’t share the same con­fi­dence in GM crops as some oth­ers. The ver­dict is still out on the long term health im­pacts, if any, on con­sumers.”

Ac­cord­ing the Fed­eral Govern­ment’s Of­fice of the Gene Tech­nol­ogy Reg­u­la­tor, risks to the health and safety of peo­ple or the en­vi­ron­ment as­so­ci­ated with trial are “neg­li­gi­ble”.

“Cred­i­ble path­ways to po­ten­tial harm that were con­sid­ered in­cluded ex­po­sure of peo­ple or an­i­mals to the GM plant ma­te­rial, in­creased po­ten­tial for spread and per­sis­tence of the GMOs, and trans­fer of the in­tro­duced ge­netic ma­te­rial to sex­u­ally com­pat­i­ble plants,” it said in a state­ment..

“Po­ten­tial harms as­so­ci­ated with these path­ways in­cluded tox­i­c­ity or al­ler­genic­ity to peo­ple, tox­i­c­ity to other de­sir­able or­gan­isms, and en­vi­ron­men­tal harms due to weed­i­ness.”

The risk of those po­ten­tial h a rm s even­tu­at­ing were deemed neg­li­gi­ble “be­cause the ba­nanas will not be used for hu­man food or an­i­mal feed, and the pro­posed lim­its and con­trols ef­fec­tively con­tain the GMOs and their ge­netic ma­te­rial and min­imise ex­po­sure”. The trial site will be iso­lated from other ba­nana crops, and all plants will be de­stroyed at the end of the trial. The Ter­ri­tory’s ba­nana in­dus­try was brought to its knees in 2014 by fun­gal dis­ease ba­nana freckle. Most of the Top End’s ba­nana plants were de­stroyed in an ef­fort to con­tain the dis­ease.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce said he sup­ported the re­search.

“Ul­ti­mately, the QUT in part­ner­ship with in­dus­try, makes its own de­ter­mi­na­tion on the com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity of any prod­uct should it prove vi­able and be ap­proved by Aus­tralia’s strict reg­u­la­tory ap­proval bod­ies and the Gene Tech­nol­ogy Reg­u­la­tor,’’ he

said. HID­DEN in the scrub of the Crocody­lus Park la­goon, 3m saltie Blonde lay the first clutch of eggs for the sea­son.

Han­dler Tate Cham­bers led Kath­leen Net­tle­fold and Tony Spain to the nest to col­lect the 58 eggs early yes­ter­day.

As the trio worked to ex­tract the del­i­cate eggs mother Blonde acted to pro­tect her clutch.

Mr Cham­bers said the croc climbed the steep bank to ward off the han­dlers.

He said the act wasn’t one of pure ag­gres­sion, but one to keep her young safe.

He said the breed­ing sea­son ran from Oc­to­ber to April and rain­fall of­ten en­cour­aged fe­males to lay.

The eggs are col­lected and taken to the hatch­ery where they are in­cu­bated for three months.

It was Ms Net­tle­fold’s first egg col­lec­tion.

She said it was ex­cit­ing to climb up the bank and peer into the nest.

Pic­ture: PATRINA MALONE

Crocody­lus Park croc han­dlers, Tate Cham­bers and Tony Spain keep guard as Kath­leen Net­tle­fold cau­tiously col­lects croc eggs

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