Grains research facilities: New Genes for New Environments

Page last updated: Wednesday, 22 May 2019 - 3:14pm

New Genes for New Environments research facilities at Merredin and Katanning provide relevant field conditions for genetically modified crop evaluation trials in Western Australia under contrasting environments.

Genetic modifications are playing an increasingly important role in crop science with greater areas being planted to genetically modified (GM) crops in over 25 countries worldwide, including Australia. GM may be adopted over conventional varieties for disease resistance or other unique characteristics that provide an advantage in our farming system or marketplace.

The aim of the New Genes for New Environments (NGNE) facilities at Merredin and Katanning is to accelerate the development of higher yielding, more resilient and nutrient efficient varieties, providing Western Australian grain growers with improved production efficiencies, ensuring they remain internationally competitive and profitable well into the future.

These locations were selected as they represent the lower and higher rainfall environments in WA. They also provide contrasting stresses such as low rainfall and high temperatures at Merredin with frost and winter waterlogging at Katanning.

Background to NGNE

New Genes for New Environments is a Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) initiative designed to enable evaluation of the world’s best candidate GM traits from both public and private research organisations under Western Australian conditions in a highly contained and safe testing environment.

The WA State Government provided funding for the two state-of-the-art purpose built facilities and DPIRD provides ongoing technical and compliance support to users. The facilities enable the evaluation of GM plant traits under field conditions in two contrasting locations. These locations were selected as they represent the lower and higher rainfall environments of WA.

A major step in GM crop development is moving from the laboratory and glasshouse into the field. The NGNE initiative provides this capacity under containment arrangements that meet the stringent Australian standards of the Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR).

The NGNE aim is to accelerate the development of higher yielding, more resilient and nutrient efficient varieties. This will help growers to enhance the internationally competitiveness and profitability of the WA agriculture industry.

NGNE services

  • Assist in preparing regulatory requirements to OGTR for limited and controlled release for evaluation of GM traits in NGNE facilities.
  • Contractual arrangement to evaluate company-owned GM crops in NGNE where DPIRD will be responsible for:
    • Importation of GM seed through quarantine regulations.
    • Preparing and managing field trials in NGNE, conducting and reporting trait measurements, harvesting trials and post-harvest monitoring.
    • Quality assurance.
    • Maintaining confidentiality, company IP stewardship and protection.
    • Reporting as required by OGTR regulations.
  • IP ownership remains with company - DPIRD has no interest in IP equity.
  • Fee-for-service facility at a subsidised cost- minimal cost.

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