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Australian wine industry not sold on GM inputs

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Managing director of the Australian Wine Institute, Dan Johnson says that while other nations in the biotechnology scene may be willing to take the lead in GM wine production, Australia is happy to take a back seat.

“GM is a big part of most agricultural research that’s done, and that is true of all major agricultural crops and grape growing is no exception,” Johnson told ABC News.

“The Australian wine sector has a very clear position for the use of GM in its industry and that is informed by a range of different market forces…”

Johnson says that while a significant proportion of the Australian wine sector is against the use of GM inputs, it is not an opinion shared by all.

“I would say that there is not a completely uniform view... if you put 100 growers in a room, some would look to embrace new technology whether that is GM or non GM or some other form of technology.

“There are some people that are inherently more innovative than others, but I think in the main, there is still widespread concern of what the use of GM for example would do to export markets, what it might do to the perception of the overall Australian wine category.

"As a result, the wine category doesn't look at that very seriously."

With that in mind, Johnson says that the inclusion of GM inputs in wine production both within Australian and abroad is still a long way off.

“It will still be quite some time till we will see GM type products in wine, if ever. But I think that there are other agricultural crops and indeed other wine industries in the world that might seek to take a lead in the practical implementation of that,” Johnson told ABC News.

“I think that with time, there are a number of ways in which biotechnology can play a massive role in getting higher yields from grapes, to allowing grapes to be grown in areas that perhaps they can’t currently… I think that over time we will start to see those things come through.”

According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, the worldwide adoption of GM crops has been rapidly increasing since their introduction in 1995. At this stage, the only GM crops approved for commercial release in Australia by the Office of gene Technology Regulator are that of cotton and canola.

Both Tasmania and South Australia – two of Australia prime wine regions – have moratoriums on the commercial release of GM food crops. South Australia’s moratorium will continue until at least 2019 while Tasmania’s moratorium has been extended indefinitely.

Image: www.smh.com.au

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