Life on the land in Australia


Cereal crop contaminated

by Genetically Modified Canola

December 24, 2010
More than half of a WA cereal farmer's crop has lost its organic certification due to contamination from a neighbouring GM canola crop.More than half of a WA cereal farmer’s crop has lost its organic certification due to contamination from a neighbouring GM canola crop.

An organic cereal farmer in Western Australia may consider suing for compensation after receiving confirmation his crops have been contaminated by genetically modified (GM) canola.

Steve Marsh, who farms at Kojonup in WA’s Great Southern region, received state government test results on Friday confirming the contamination, believed to be the first of its type in Australia.

More than half his land has lost its organic certification because of the contamination, meaning he loses premium prices for organic harvests.

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Mr Marsh said he was disappointed but was waiting for investigations to be finalised by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) before deciding what to do.

He said about 63 per cent of his property was affected so far which meant he would have to sell the oats, wheat and rye grown there at conventional prices and lose his premiums.

‘‘Our debate here is all about co-existence, we were told that the GM industry could co-exist with the non-GM industry. Co-existence is not when you have a technology imposed on you, whether you want it or not,’’ Mr Marsh said.

‘‘For co-existence to exist, the GM industry must control and contain its technology so we can go on producing a GM-free product and having that choice.‘‘A lot of my clients want to buy a non-GM product.’’

Mr Marsh may be forced to seek compensation through the courts for cancelled organic certification and lost income.

‘‘I am prepared to defend my livelihood and my choice, and the choice of many other non-GM farmers to produce a non-GM product.’’

The GM giant Monsanto has said it would support the neighbouring canola farmer whose crop is believed to have contaminated Mr Marsh’s crops.

It has said that canola farmer had complied with his obligation to keep a five-metre buffer between his GM crop and the next farm.

In a letter to Mr Marsh, WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman urged him to persuade NASAA to drop its zero per cent threshold for accidental GM contamination of organic crops.

He noted that the European Union recently adopted a 0.9 per cent threshold for unintentional presence of GM material.

‘‘This decision acknowledges that zero per cent thresholds are unrealistic in biological systems,’’ Mr Redman wrote.

Bob Phelps, the director of the anti-GM group Gene Ethics, said GM contamination of non-GM growers was inevitable so Mr Redman should introduce farmer protection laws as soon as possible.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

December 27th, 2010

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