Australian crops face "serious genetic contamination" (8/8/2005)

1.Australian crops face 'serious genetic contamination'
2.GM contamination found in WA - farmers insist on recall

1.Australian crops face 'serious genetic contamination'
By Tim Clarke
The New Zealand Herald, 09.08.05

PERTH - Environmentalists say Australia is facing "the most serious genetic contamination event" in its history, after the West Australian government confirmed low levels of genetically modified canola had been found in non-GM canola.

A spokeswoman for the WA Department of the Environment said today that tests had shown positive results of GM material but samples had been sent overseas for further testing and until more detailed results were confirmed no further details could be released.

The latest test results come after GM material was found during routine testing by the Australian Barley Board in June of an export consignment of Victorian canola seeds bound for Japan. About 0.01 percent of the consignment contained the GM material.

It is believed the modification found in Victoria, known as Topas 19/2 and developed by Bayer CropScience, was also found in the WA sample tested.

Following today's announcement, Greenpeace Australia campaigner Jeremy Tager said state governments must now take immediate action to protect Australia's GM free status.

"This is the most serious genetic contamination event that Australia has ever faced and the response from state governments in the coming days will determine their commitment to upholding Australia's (GM) free status," Mr Tager said.

"The WA and Victorian governments have instituted rigorous testing.

"They are taking this issue extremely seriously but the lack of any response from the NSW and South Australian governments is disturbing.

"States that have not conducted testing, or taken steps to determine if Topas is a problem in their agricultural areas, are putting Australian farmers and our (GM) free status at risk."

WA's Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said he would like to see legislation put in place at a national level to govern liability for GM contamination.

Although he believed WA's GM-free status was not under threat, he was keeping a close watch on the situation.

Hew said while tests had given a positive result, there could be a number of reasons for that.

"It's certainly a matter for concern, but it is an interim test, and the nature of those interim tests is that false positives are possible," Mr Chance told ABC radio.

"So really until we get the final information from that trial, which won't be until early-September, it's really speculative to say that we actually have that problem.

"I know that the Network of Concerned Farmers have argued very strongly for strict liability laws of that kind, and I think it's something that we need to be thinking about very seriously."

Julie Newman, from the Network of Concerned Farmers, said if the contamination was confirmed, the problem must be isolated and removed because GM-free status was too valuable to lose.


2.GM contamination found in WA - farmers insist on recall
For immediate release: 07 August 2005

The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) have announced evidence of GM contamination in West Australia following testing of canola samples in stored canola. A series of preliminary tests were undertaken by Cooperative Bulk Handling (CBH) and some revealed very small levels of GM content which have been sent overseas for further testing.

"This is very serious and if results are positive, recall needs to be addressed urgently," said Julie Newman, NCF National Spokesperson and West Australian farmer.

"Farmers can’t afford to throw away our GM-free status as more and more markets are demanding no tolerance of any GM seeds in consignments."

Concern to a possibility of contamination was raised when a consignment of canola was found to be contaminated in Victoria and it was speculated that it could be in a newly released seed line also sold in West Australia. It has been identified that the GM construct found was Bayer Cropscience's "Topas" which is the same as found in Victoria.

"Buyers need confidence in the product they are buying and we commend CBH and the State government for instigating these pre-sale tests," said Mrs Newman.

"Markets are routinely asking for GM status on consignments and often test to verify the claims that there is no GM present."

The NCF claim that preliminary samples detected only one GM seed in 10,000 and these tests have been forwarded overseas for further analysis. It is possible that the preliminary tests done could produce a false positive result and testing needs to be verified by more advanced methods not available in Australia. Final results may not be available for a further two to three weeks.

"With such low levels found in isolated samples, we have every confidence that this contamination can be recalled. If contamination is confirmed, the next step is to find the source of the contamination, eliminate it and send the bill to whoever caused it.

"The inability for common law to address liability for economic loss caused by GM contamination is a very real threat. Governments must introduce a strict liability legislation to be sure the polluter pays, not the polluted."

- END -

Contact: Julie Newman 08 98711562 or 08 98711644

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