GM or non-GM in Oz - Kalla vs Newman (19/12/2004)

As well as being part of the Network of Concerned Farmers - an Australia wide network of farmers concerned about the economic, environmental and social impacts of genetically modified crops, Julie Newman is a conventional farmer and vice president of the Western Australian Farmers Grains Committee, as well as the WA representative on the Grains Council of Australia's Seeds Subcommittee.

As such she is not exactly a pin-up girl with the pro-GM lobby who seem to feel Julie's an unhelpful impediment to their sprinkling their fairy bio-hype over Australia's farmers' representatives. For lobbyists who like to present those concerned about GM as deranged pie-in-the-sky activists getting in the way of the self-interest of hard-working practical farmers keen to adopt the technology, having hard-working practical farmers like those in the Network of Concerned Farmers pointing out the hard-nosed economic shortcomings of adopting GM is little short of a nightmare.

Perhaps understandably, one Aussie pro-GMer recently told the press he thought the Network of Concerned Farmers needed to be wiped off the face of the earth!

Another keen GM promoter is Roger Kalla, the director of 'Korn Technologies' - a company that describes itself as "Innovators in ag-biotechnology".

Kalla likes to link GM critical scientists to the French evolutionary theorist Lamarck whose views, Kalla recently told AgBioView readers, "fit well with 'new age' beliefs and philosophies that reject modern 'reductionistic' science and underpin some sections of the environmental and organics movement".

Kalla doesn't stop there: "history warns us about the potentially catastrophic consequences of whole sale adoption of Lamarckian theories. During Stalin's rule of terror over the Soviet Union, Trofim Lysenko, the 'barefoot scientist' and embodiment of the mythical Soviet peasant savant rose to the position of National leader of all plant breeding programs. Lysenko applied Stalin's policy of 'practice over theory' combined with the Lamarckian 'holistic' pseudo science approach to Soviet agricultural genetics for over 30 years with catastrophic consequences. Lysenkoism resulted in the expulsion, imprisonment, and death of hundreds of scientists and the demise of genetics throughout the Soviet Union."

You get the picture!!!

Recently, GM Watch has had the pleasure of being cc.ed on an exchange of e-mails between Roger Kalla and Julie Newman, and we have to report that Roger has not been getting the best of it. Here's one of Julie's choice responses:

'Now Roger, you seem to be missing the point of the debate.

Firstly a brief comment about

"As Julie and I both know the EU doesn't import any canola neither from Canada nor Australia five year out of six due to the oversupply of farm produce that the EU subsidies to farmers create. Apparently the future for farmers in Europe and UK in particular are to become 'free range' gardeners that are there to ensure the vistas are kept open for City folk to enjoy during their drives in the country side on the week-end."

EU is not just an opportune market, over the last 5 years, they have amounted to 13% of our export volume (3rd largest export customer). If we went GM, we would lose at least 13% of our export market because it is too difficult and too expensive to market as GM-free. Why should those farmers that don't want to grow GM want to lose any markets?

and your comment: "GM-FREE? DNA Technology to the rescue...." is a tad misguided but in the spirit of Christmas parties, I will share a joke with you on that one.

Farmers are not stupid, we know that the intention is to contaminate so that farmers and subsequently consumers do not have a choice to market as GM-free. You however, have to accept that we will not accept the economic loss associated with your aim. It is quite simple really Roger, you cause us economic harm and we will sue you. If you don't believe there is an economic problem associated with it, well it shouldn't worry you.

The reason they are having to pay premiums for GM-free from US is because of the expense of segregation and traceability. Farmers have market access to GM-free markets without the additional cost burden that will be imosed on the end-user. It is a huge marketting tool to maintain that status without the cost and risk involved. The NZ sausage maker learnt that US can not produce GM-free despite all the precautions in the world.

If the pro-GM activists want to bring in GM, work out a way that it can be grown and contained without impacting negatively on anyone else.

You may approve of consuming GM foods but the majority do not and those that have looked in more detail at our regulatory process trust it far less. What are they testing for? The GM applicants provide the testing (eg. Monsanto), the tests are checking if it will impact negatively on stock fed GM canola meal. The canola oil, which is the bit that consumers consume, is not even tested. Why? Because Monsanto presented data showing that the 10 people that were allergic to peanuts were not allergic to peanut oil and deduced that accordingly there is no DNA or protein in oil. How ridiculous to accept this deduction when it is known medically that around 10% of consumers allergic to peanuts are allergic to peanut oil.

So where is the rigorous, exhaustive, highly regulated etc etc testing of these foods that will guarantee that consumers are safe? The OGTR replies that it is the same testing that has been undertaken on chemicals BUT chemicals are recallable, GM plants are not.

Why irreversibly contaminate the worlds food supply with a product that has already had adverse health reports? It is foolish and irresponsible and we do not want to be a part of it.

GM canola has not really progressed much in the last 10 years. Australian farmers are being offered old technology that has no performance value that can not be achieved in non-GM. Why allow a donkey to enter the Melbourne Cup if it's sole role is to kick the other horses?

Will we allow contamination of our product, loss of markets etc? No way... no hard feelings but if you try it, we will sue you for the damages. Cheers!

Regard, Julie'

Julie Newman also told him:

'Consumers are rejecting GM, the ACCC has confirmed that to label as Non-GM or GM-free, there must not be any trace of GM but it is however scientifically proven that contamination will occur.

The pro-GM activists have lied to farmers and decision makers by claiming between 0.9% and 1% contamination will be accepted in non-GM knowing full well that this is not correct (I submitted legal advise to the GTGC and government hearings over 3 years ago and constantly since).

Result = there will be market loss & economic loss.

Problem = who will pay for this?

Pro-GM activists want the non-GM growers to pay and the non-GM growers understandably are refusing to subsidise the GM industry.

Quite simple really!'

After more of the same, Kalla took his complaints back to a more sympathetic audience - AgBioView -where he complained of "the misconceptions that exists [sic] here in Australia (at least in some quarters) of the marketing advantage of Australia being ''GM-free'' -- a paper tiger if there ever was one". Kalla's comments were headed, "GM Free or Not -- The Shaky Scientific and Legal Foundation of a Marketing Strategy" and topped the bulletin on AgBioView.

Here's Julie's response via GM Watch:

I would like to respond to Dr Roger Kalla, Director Korn Technologies article in Agbioview:

Why do the GM industry, who clearly have a vested interest in promoting GM crops, feel they have the right to remove the GM-free status of Australia
without adequately compensating those concerned if economic loss is experienced? A "trust us, but farmers can pay if we are wrong" attitude is
clearly not accepted by farmers or the Australian state governments who have the role of assessing economic risk.

GM benefits need to be assessed more carefully and we need to look beyond the promises to the reality of what farmers are actually being offered. We are being offered chemical resistant canola that does not appear to yield or return more benefit than our many non-GM chemical resistant canola
varieties. It is not acceptable that almost all economic reports are based on the best yield improvements that the GM industry claim has occurred in Canada rather than from any factual data presented from a range of independent Australian trials.

All Australian states that rigorously assessed economic risk called moratoriums for good, well documented reasons. While Dr Kalla is proud of
the recommendation to Victorian Government by Professor Peter J Lloyd (independent adviser), he should have found the following: "Release of GM
canola for commercial production would be subject to whatever regulations and controls are deemed necessary to manage the risks. The State of
Victoria, or the cooperating States as a group if cooperation among growing states is possible, would determine industry standards. Self-regulation by the industry does not adequately address the issues in an industry with systemic problems affecting other stakeholders."

Despite the evidence presented at the Victorian hearing, it was ignored that "Non-GM" and "GM-free" means no detectable content of GM is allowed, which would mean coexistence would not be possible. The report also failed to cover the fact that farmers are now liable for contamination caused by both commercial release and trials as the guarantee of GM-free status was withdrawn when GM canola was approved at Federal level and farmers are required to sign contractual agreements guaranteeing a GM-free status of their produce.

Even the Federal Government has recognised the need to indemnify farmers from additional costs and market risk: Quote from Appendix 1 - Department of
Agriculture Fisheries & Forestry - Australia produced document titled Biotechnology Strategy for Agriculture, Food and Fibre. - "considering that
the application of biotechnology in the agriculture, food and fibre industries should not jeopardise market opportunities or impose unreasonable costs on existing producers;"

Coexistence is known by all to be impossible to comply with the zero detectable tolerance level required but instead of acknowledging this
problem, the pro-GM activists (most with a vested interest) are trying to mislead the public and government to believe that the level required for
coexistence for a positive "non-GM" or "GM-free" label is the same level that triggers the requirement for a positive "GM" label.

As coexistence is scientifically proven to be impossible to comply with the zero tolerance of legal requirements and market demands, or too difficult and too expensive to implement, all farmers will be expected to market on the GM market and market risk is considerable. Although it is the intention of the GM industry to expect consumers to accept GM on the basis that there will be no choice, consumers will not be so obliging and will merely turn to an alternative non-canola oil on the basis that all canola is GM. Our domestic canola market (around 30% of our market) has clearly indicated their reluctance to accept GM, several Japanese and Chinese customers have made similar claims and EU (with a clear market demand for non-GM) accounts for roughly 13% of our export market when based on a 5 year average.

Perhaps the biggest market loss would be the fact that over half of our wheat export volume is sent to GM-sensitive clients that have indicated they
want no trace of GM canola in our wheat which would be impossible to comply with considering wheat follows canola in a normal crop rotation system and it would be far too expensive to grade the volume of grain concerned.

Similar market loss will occur on a range of products from barley, lupins, hay, honey, stock feed and stock fed traces of GM grain. Farmers market a food for consumers that are rejecting GM and all farmers can not afford to throw these markets away just to let a few farmers give GM canola a try.

Even trials could be a threat to the economic wellbeing of Australian farmers if contamination is not strictly managed. An Extract from The
European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) report on "Co-existence between genetically modified crops, and conventional and organic crops". "Consumer caution has meant whole areas where GMO cultivation gives rise to an increased risk of contamination being effectively boycotted whether or not contamination has actually occurred. The mere fact that GM wheat was on
an experimental basis in a particular German federal state caused the largest German milling group to stop buying wheat from that area."

Governments and decision makers have a duty of care to ensure that they can not ignore the fact that there will be economic loss and market risk and
when so many markets will be affected by the introduction of GM canola, it is very very clear that the risks far outweighs any perceived benefits.
Farmers can not, and will not, accept the associated loss to our income and as GM crops are the intruder to our industry, the GM industry should accept the responsibility for containing their product and ensuring it does not contaminate other markets.

Farmers, farm lobby groups and politicians are targetted by a range of pro-GM activists promoting dreams and hiding realities. We have the GM
industry wanting to profit by patenting and controlling the source that all food is derived from, the scientists and research industry wanting to profit from the advantage of encouraging corporate investment to plant breeding, the governments wanting to back out of funding research and development (one of Australia's only subsidies) and supply chain participants wanting to profit by developing closed loop marketing systems and contractual agreements to lock farmers in to specific products, production methods and
supply chains.

Those wanting to grow GM crops are not told that they can well be sued for any loss incurred from contaminating their neighbours, that this risk
appears to be uninsurable, that they could suffer loss of land values and associated loss in equity which would in turn affect their bank loans and

To claim that decisions should be "science based" rather than "economic based" is clearly ignoring the fact that the world revolves around economics
and that economics is the reason why the GM proponents want GM crops in preference to the better plant breeding advances in non-GM biotechnology. If a less economic, more "scientific" angle is to be pursued we should remove
the right to patent living organisms as this economic incentive is clearly the driving force for forcing GM on a reluctant population.

If the future option of GM pharmaceutical or industrial crops is accepted, there is clear evidence that consumers do not wish to be accidentally and
unknowingly consuming a range of pharmaceuticals or industrial plastics in their ceareals and yet it will be impossible for farmers to avoid contamination. If wreckless decisions are made, farmers could not only lose our ability to market food crops consumers prefer, but we could lose our ability to market food crops at all.

Without adequate risk management, the introduction of GM crops will seriously threaten farmers long term economic viability. Farmers will take whatever action is necessary to ensure our industry is not threatened and accordingly farmers are poised to take legal action to recover economic
loss. The Network of Concerned farmers are non-GM farmers not wanting to be adversely affected by a crop we do not need, do not want and can not afford and we believe nobody has the right to force us to compensate the GM industry without adequate and fair redress.

Julie Newman
National Spokesperson
Network of Concerned Farmers

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