GM companies warned as canola destroyed / Farmers concerned (15/9/2005)

1.Canola destroyed over contamination
2.Farmers concerned about handling of GM crop
3.GM companies warned after contamination

1.Canola destroyed over contamination
By Tamara McLean
Herald Sun, 15 September 2005

MILLIONS of canola seedlings have been destroyed after one variety in a New South Wales crop trial was found to be genetically modified, a farmer at one test site said today.

The revelation came as the NSW Government extended the ban on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops until March 2008.

The moratorium, which had been due to expire next March, was extended so that more evidence about marketing and trade aspects of such crops could be gathered.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald today said nine NSW trials of canola varieties had been destroyed due to suspected GM contamination.

The crops, which were supposed to be non-GM varieties, were being grown as part of a national variety trial supervised by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on behalf of the Victorian government.

John Miller, the president of Manildra Field Station, in central-western NSW, where one trial had been planted, said all 60 plots of the four-inch high seedlings had been ploughed up.

"I believe one particular variety was contaminated in all nine trials across the state but they wiped out the lot out of caution," Mr Miller said.

"Only affected plants were pulled up in Victoria but the NSW DPI decided to wipe out the NSW trials to try to limit contamination."

But he said it was "deeply concerning" that the incident had occurred in the middle of a moratorium.

"What worries me is that, regardless of whether GM is good or bad, the contamination has happened and there's a ban on," Mr Miller said.

"We're not allowed to grow any, and that's just been extended, so it is concerning."

He said the incident raised questions about how often such contaminations occurred.

"You have to ask how did it happen, has it happened before ... and how much contamination has occurred throughout the space?" Mr Miller said.

"They'll have to be extra careful now and check the plots every fortnight to make sure none of these plants keep growing."

A spokeswoman for Mr Macdonald said the NSW Government had responded appropriately to the problem.

"On suspecting there might be an unintended presence of GM material in the plots, NSW acted quickly and decisively," the spokeswoman said.

"The NSW DPI immediately destroyed the plots that contained or were suspected of containing GM canola."

She said Mr Macdonald had requested crown solicitor's advice on any potential breaches of legislation, and what remedies may be available.

"He has also referred the issue to (the) state's gene technology advisory committee," she said.

"We have yet to receive either piece of advice, but will consider it carefully when it is available."

The NSW Government would continue to collaborate with other state governments and industry to manage the issue of unintended presence of GM food crops, the spokeswoman said. ---

2.Farmers concerned about handling of GM crop trials
ABC, 15/09/2005

New South Wales has now been confirmed as the latest state to be carrying out genetically-modified (GM) canola crop trials.

The confirmation came on the same day as the state extended its GM moratorium on growing food crops until 2008.

And farmers are raising questions about the handling of the issue.

New South Wales canola producer John Miller says he is concerned about the way the nine contaminated trials were secretly eradicated and wants to know if other GM canola crops are still out there.

"They told me that they were coming down to rotary all the plants out of the trial. I believe there were 15 or 20 varieties in that trial plot," he said.

"Everything is very quiet. It is very hard to find any facts and figures about it.

"I believe it needs to be brought out into the open because maybe the contamination is far spread already, who knows?

The New South Wales Primary Industries Minister has asked the Crown solicitor to examine whether there has been any breach of state law, in growing the affected canola.

3.GM companies warned after contamination
Ninemsn News, Sep 15 2005

Companies producing genetically-modified (GM) crops in Western Australia have been warned to be more careful or face clean-up bills, after two more canola trial sites were contaminated with GM produce.

In one of Australia's worst GM contamination incidents, trace levels of Monsanto's GM canola have been found in two varieties of non-GM canola grown in the federal government's National Variety Trials (NVT) in the Lake Grace and Cranbrook shires in WA's south-west.

State Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said the GM material discovered was not at a high enough trace level to threaten the environment or WA's access to overseas markets.

But he said all grain harvested from the sites, once the trials were completed, would be destroyed.

"I am confident that these measures will manage the current situation. However, should such incidents recur in the future I will require the contaminated area to be destroyed," Mr Chance said.

"Regretfully, the GM companies appear unable to contain their product within the laboratory or within Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) trial sites, and they appear unable or unwilling to respect WA's moratorium, or those in place in other Australian jurisdictions."

Mr Chance said the GM level detected at the trial sites was 0.04 per cent, below international market standards - but he would still seek urgent advice from his department to ensure no more contaminations occurred.

"It is frustrating and it must be really annoying for the owners of the material under trial, because they've just seen a whole year's trials go up in smoke because of a little carelessness," Mr Chance said.

The latest contamination scare comes after tests last month in WA showed suspected GM contamination of three of 12 canola samples taken between Geraldton and Esperance. Further testing on the three samples later proved negative.

Julie Newman, spokesman for the Network of Concerned Farmers, said the latest contamination highlighted GM companies' negligence, and that they should be liable for any costs farmers incurred.

"I am extremely concerned, and this again shows we should be pushing ahead with a strict liability regime at a federal level as soon as possible," Ms Newman said.

She said WA's reputation as GM-free could still be rescued.

"I have every confidence that this (contamination) can be recalled and the reputation maintained," she said.

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