Our role in stewardship

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the negative ‘noise’ that has plagued the cotton industry on some media platforms and political forums of late. Upon critical analysis by those who have a little more insight, it is evident that many of these claims are nothing more than baseless, short term “click bait.” Nevertheless, they have been highly damaging to the industry and those of us who work in it.

In a recent social media campaign, Cotton Australia (CA) has been combating this misinformation head on. CA Chief Executive Officer Adam Kay has highlighted the importance of each of us engaging in the sharing of the positive stories of the cotton industry. 

We all have a stewardship role to play in communicating the Australian cotton story and preserving the elements and inputs that are integral to its sustainable future. But in an era when it is easy to default to online debate, we need to remember that ‘stewardship’ can be exercised in many ways.

Beyond the social media melee, there is a long established and potentially more direct way in which we all – growers, researchers, and consultants alike, can play an active role in shaping the future direction of our industry.

The Transgenic Insecticide Management Strategy (TIMS) Committee was established by the then Australian Cotton Growers Research Association (later to morph into Cotton Australia) in the mid 1990’s. One of its main purposes was to assist in the development of the initial ‘industry approved’ Resistance Management Plan (RMP) for Bt Cotton in Australia (Downes et al 2010). In 1998, a relatively new organisation in cotton – Cotton Consultants Australia (to become Crop Consultants Australia) was offered a voice on the TIMS Committee. Members of CCA of the time recall this as a pivotal moment in the organisation when consultants were recognised for their role in the future of cotton in Australia.

The thinking behind the involvement of the TIMS Committee in the RMP process was that a plan that was developed by industry, should have a much higher potential for adoption by growers, than one written and enforced by regulators. This theory was not unfounded, and today, the current TIMS Committee and its Technical Panels, are comprised of growers, researchers, consultants and members from the grain and pulse industries. It continues to operate with the ongoing brief to develop and review resistance management strategies within the cotton industry. One of their key purposes in doing so is to ensure that the ‘traits and products are stewarded in a sustainable manner that protects the right to farm for cotton growers, protects the social licence of the cotton industry and ensures commercial longevity for these technologies.” (“Cotton Australia | Stewardship”, 2021)

CCA currently holds four of the eighteen seats on TIMS committee, representing consultants in all of the major cotton growing valleys. The fact that these positions are tightly held for extended periods by members, is testimony to the importance that our representative place on the role.

CCA Director and long term TIMS member Ben Dawson believes that involvement in the committee gives representatives a direct voice.

“We have the opportunity to make change and to have a say on the issues that are relevant to us,” says Dawson.

Likewise, these representatives are the voice of industry. To fulfil this however, they require input from the rest of ‘us’ to better inform their discussions. In doing so, we ensure that industry retains considered and evidence-based participation in protecting social licence and the future of our industry.

Our own role in Stewardship however extends further than that of the TIMS committee. As industry professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure that the RMP and the principles and practices that underpin it, are adhered to and that compliance is respected. Growers and consultants alike, we are all accountable for promoting the cotton industry as a leader in best practice. It only takes one poor operator to bring the work of many into disrepute. Those who would happily see the dispansion of our industry, will then have a very valid reason to make ‘noise’ and be heard.

If you would like to make contact with a member of the TIMS Committee or find out more about its processes, visit https://cottonaustralia.com.au/stewardship. Alternatively, contact the CCA office for the contact details of the representative in your area.

Cotton Australia | Stewardship. (2021). Retrieved 18 July 2021, from https://cottonaustralia.com.au/stewardship

Downes, S., Mahon, R.J., Rossiter, L., Kauter, G., Leven, T., Fitt, G. and Baker, G. (2010), Adaptive management of pest resistance by Helicoverpa species (Noctuidae) in Australia to the Cry2Ab Bt toxin in Bollgard II® cotton. Evolutionary Applications, 3: 574-584. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-4571.2010.00146.x