GM contamination widespread in Australia (1/9/2005)

Just how damaging GM trials can be is highlighted by the news that ABB Grain, which has been randomly testing canola (oilseed rape) samples in South Australia, has reported finding contamination from Topas 19/2 - a variety that has not been trialed there since 1997!!

This is the third detection of GM contamination of Australian grain within the last couple of months, following cases in Victoria and Western Australia. Still more worryingly, ABB also report that the contamination is extensive - turning up at low levels "in many samples". (GM contamination found in canola sample)

GE contamination spreads: inaction spreads faster
Press release, Thursday September 1, 2005

News that Bayer's genetically engineered canola "Topas" has been found in South Australia, confirms fears of the widespread contamination of Australian canola and the lack of action by state governments to protect their GE free farmers and status, Greenpeace said today.

"Two months after the discovery of the Topas contamination in Victoria, State Governments still don't know the source of the contamination or the number of farmers growing contaminated canola," said Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner, Jeremy Tager. "We still don’t have any commitment to the eradication of the contamination or compensation provisions for farmers."

"South Australia, like Victoria, appears to be leaving the entire mess in the hands of organisations with pro-GE policies and no credibility. New South Wales appears to be doing nothing at all," Tager said.

"Trusting the pro-GE Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) to supervise GE contamination testing is putting the fox in charge of the hen-house. This is the same organisation whose strategic plan commits it to 'deliver acceptance of GM products'.* The AOF's proposal for how GE and non-GE agriculture could coexist, was rejected by industry in 2003, because the protocols would not prevent genetic contamination."

"The AOF says it will take two months to discover the origins of the contamination. This is unacceptable, when highly reliable laboratory GE tests take less than a week. How long will it take to discover which farmers are contaminated? At the current pace, we won't know where the contamination is until after harvest and GE Topas is spread into the world's food chain. "

This lack of urgency and action serves only the GE industry, which has been arguing that because the industry cannot control contamination, farmers and the broader community must accept it. The longer the contamination remains in the food chain, the harder it will be to remove.

The notion of ratifying industry incompetence by ignoring Australia's worst genetic contamination event is unacceptable.

Clear, unequivocal statements from State Governments are long overdue. To maintain the confidence of farmers and the community in the state GE bans, State Governments must:

* commit to a zero tolerance policy for genetic contamination

* require immediate and comprehensive testing to determine the scope of the contamination.

* guarantee that it is not the taxpayer or farmer that pays for the costs of testing - costs that are likely to blow out.

* guarantee that no farmers will face liability for inadvertently growing GE canola.

* guarantee that their State moratorium will be upheld and the Topas contamination eradicated.

"If State Governments are going to have GE crop bans, they must enforce them. This is the test they face now, and are currently failing," Tager concluded.

* http://www.australianoilseeds.com/welcome_to_aof/strategic_plan

Contact: Jeremy Tager, Campaigner 07 3892 7538 mo: 0438 679 263
Carolin Wenzel, Media Officer 02 9263 0358 mo: 0417 668

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