New breeding technologies and opportunities for the Australian vegetable industry
Today’s molecular plant breeders are armed with the technologies to make specific changes to genes in living cells, in some cases without the presence of any introduced DNA. As a result of an emerging array of new breeding technologies (NBTs), gene technology regulations need to be updated, taking on board all the NBTs, and taking into consideration the long and safe track record of use of GM crops. It is hoped that the revised regulations will make the actual traits the primary consideration when assessing new varieties produced by NBTs, and not solely the means by which they were produced.
In relation to this study, the current status of the Australian vegetable industry in relation to NBTs is outlined, and a wide range of industry and researcher consultations were undertaken.
Leading Australian researchers working on NBTs for plant improvement are, in general, strongly positive regarding the potential of NBTs to contribute to Australian vegetable production. The technological capacity for NBTs to contribute to genetic gain is seen as very high.
Vegetable seed merchants and breeders held a more conservative but open stance toward NBTs. Their concerns centred on the question of whether or not a product would be classified as genetically modified, a major consideration for market access. Breeders believed that growers were much more focused on the performance of a variety in the field than on the technology used to develop it. Leading growers were less positive on the potential for NBTs to contribute to the Australian vegetable industry. The major concern was consumer acceptance, followed by the cost of applying NBTs to the relatively small vegetable market in Australia.