'Real interest' in Katherine's cotton despite decades of opposition

Once bitten, twice shy doesn't apply to GM cotton which is being tested again in Katherine


Cotton
Many people remain interested in cotton growing trials being conducted at Katherine. Picture: Twitter, Alister Trier.

Many people remain interested in cotton growing trials being conducted at Katherine. Picture: Twitter, Alister Trier.

Aa

A public outcry led to a NT ban on GM cotton - less than two decades later the government is trialing it again here in Katherine.

Aa

Strong interest in GM cotton growing trials at a Katherine field day was seen to reinforce the future of the controversial industry in the NT.

The field day was held at the Katherine Research Farm on Wednesday.

"People march with their feet," NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources chief executive Alister Trier tweeted from the field day.

"Strong interest in cotton, sorghum, soybeans and fodder ...," he said.

"Attendance included lots of locals and also some major interstate players which in my view is a quiet but real expression of interest in opportunities in the north."

Department chief Alister Trier believes there is a strong interest in growing cotton in the NT.

Department chief Alister Trier believes there is a strong interest in growing cotton in the NT.

Despite Mr Trier's enthusiasm, there remains many people staunchly opposed to development of cotton and rice growing crops in the Top End.

Katherine hosted a packed public rally opposed to the industry in 2002 which led to the ALP of the time banning the crop.

The then NT Government banned cotton growing or dams in the Daly River and halted any further approval for subdivision or clearing until a sustainable land use plan was developed.

Yet another report, one of the very many on the long-held dream of the northern food bowl, was produced to support the ban in 2004.

Genetically modified cotton was being trialed at the time in Katherine, which initially provoked the uproar.

Many local residents link recent land sales to Chinese interests and a Federal Government financed study into taking irrigation water from the Roper River as the motivation for renewed cotton interest.

Using irrigation water from the Roper River could open up one million hectares to cropping, the Federal Government said last month.

It has given the CSIRO $3.5 million to "undertake a comprehensive assessment of the development potential of the water and soil resources of the Roper River Catchment in the NT".

NT farmers toured Qld and northern NSW cotton farms earlier in the year.

NT farmers toured Qld and northern NSW cotton farms earlier in the year.

The move was roundly criticised in the local area via social media.

"Rice or cotton....is that really the best they could come up with...not even food for Australia?" Charmaine Roth wrote.

As the dream of the northern food bowl gains popularity again, cotton is at the forefront of plans for large-scale cropping.

Pests, poor soil quality, the lack of water infrastructure and public protests like that from Katherine stopped cotton in its tracks.

Fogg Dam near Humpty Doo, a multi-million dollar failed rice experiment from the 1950s, is still largely seen as a living memorial about learning lessons from the past.

Katherine cotton protest organiser June Tapp said fears of genetically modified crops and the need for widespread use of chemicals worried people at the time.

"I don't think people's thinking will have changed much," she said.

The crop was banned by the NT Government in 2003, but is back in contention with GM cotton trials happening again in Katherine.

With the ban no longer in place, the industry is once again turning its attention to the north.

The cotton industry is attempting to demonstrate, at the Katherine research farm and other places, it has modernised in the past few decades.

Katherine Times

The story 'Real interest' in Katherine's cotton despite decades of opposition first appeared on North Queensland Register.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by