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University of Sydney report: A Snapshot of Roundup Ready® Cotton in Australia - Are there environmental benefits from the rapid adoption of Roundup Ready cotton in Australia?
Sydney, Australia
August 4, 2004

University of Sydney researchers have provided firm evidence that a popular GM cotton crop provides significant environmental benefits, leading to the reduction in the use of pesticides associated with conventional cotton production.

Using field measurements, researchers from the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources have shown that herbicides typically used on Monsanto's Roundup Ready cotton pose a lower risk to the environment than herbicides commonly used on conventional cotton crops, significantly reducing the risk of off-site contamination in Australian cotton production.

The report A Snapshot of Roundup Ready Cotton in Australia, which is co-authored by Dr Angus Crossan and Professor Ivan Kennedy, also shows that the weed control programs used with Roundup Ready cotton allow reduced tillage practices and fewer precautionary applications of residual herbicides, providing further environmental benefits.

Herbicides used on cotton production can have a potentially harmful effect on aquatic life, affecting plants that provide food and habitat for fish and other aquatic animals and sometimes being directly toxic to these animals.

Since the introduction of Roundup Ready cotton in 2000, it has been quickly adopted by Australian cotton growers, totaling more than 40 per cent of the cotton crop in the 2003/4 season.

The Roundup Ready cotton field project was initiated by Monsanto in 2001 to objectively test predications of reduced environmental risk through the introduction of Roundup Ready technology to Australia. Managed by consulting firm Maunsell Australia Ltd, with assistance from CSIRO Land and Water and The University of Sydney, the process involved both desktop risk assessment and comprehensive field trials.

Assessment of the relative risk to ecosystems from the herbicides used in the field experiments was expressed by considering the exposure of the herbicides and their toxicity to two species found in riverine ecosystems, trout and water flea. The methods followed the recognised framework for environmental risk assessment (ERA).

In addition to the reduction in environmental risk, economic benefits from its use, shown by other studies, could also explain the extremely rapid uptake of the Roundup Ready technology by the Australian Cotton Industry.

Commenting on the results and methodology, report co-author Professor Ivan Kennedy, said 'The use of glyphosate in combination with other low risk herbicides for weed control proves an opportunity to significantly reduce the risk of off-site herbicide contamination in Australian cotton production.'

'Laboratory data are not equivalent to the measurements obtained from the field. In this study, field data have improved the reliability of the risk assessment of GM cotton, contributing to the responsible management of agrochemicals and providing factual evidence for the debate about gene technology in agriculture.'

Crossan, A and Kennedy, I. (2004)
A Snapshot of Roundup Ready® Cotton in Australia
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