GE companies accused of contaminating seed / Oz deal sells out farmers (28/10/2005)

1.GE companies accused of contaminating seed
2.WA still aiming to be GM-free
3.GE deal sells out farmers
4.Farmers call for compensation for GM contamination

QUOTE: "Accepting a blanket Australia wide tolerance level when the farmer has to pay for any market loss and testing costs is not a fair solution." (item 4)


1.GE companies accused of contaminating seed
ABC, 28/10/2005

Greenpeace is accusing seed companies including Bayer of contaminating seed with genetically modified material to force Australia to accept the technology.

New tolerance levels have been set for canola seed, with GM tolerance levels set at 0.5 per cent for the next two seasons and 0.1 per cent after that.

Greenpeace spokesman John Hepburn says the decision lets biotech companies off the hook.

"To be honest, it probably sounds a slightly cynical view but it seems as though around the world GE companies have almost adopted a conscious strategy of contamination, to force acceptance of their product or adoption of their product," he said.

"Contamination will continue to spread unless you put in strict controls and really push for zero contamination of seed."

Bayer CropScience has declined to comment on the Greenpeace allegations but says it welcomes the setting of a GM tolerance level.

Meanwhile, Western Australia's Minister for Agriculture, Kim Chance, says there is no need to review that state's GM moratorium despite calls from farmers.

After another contamination discovery in the west this week, Western Australian Farmers Federation president Trevor de Langrafft wants an advisory group established to examine the moratorium.

He says it has given the Government and industry breathing space but has now served its purpose.

2.WA still aiming to be GM-free
ABC, 28/10/2005

Western Australian Agriculture Minister Kim Chance says WA will still aim to be genetically modified (GM)-free, despite supporting tolerance levels for GM material in non-GM canola.

Australia's agriculture ministers have agreed to national standards that mean canola grain which is 0.9 of 1 per cent GM material can still be considered non-GM.

The threshold matches the level of GM material considered acceptable in Europe.

Mr Chance says the state can still legislate to make WA GM-free, but that probably will not happen for a few years.

"I think we have to mop up what we've got out here at the moment and hope to pursue that objective sometime in the future, but the reason I mention it now and why it's important in this context is to just underline that fact that we haven't given up and we are still pursuing our aim of being GM-free," he said.

3.GE deal sells out farmers
Greens Media Release 28/10/05

Greens MLC Ian Cohen says that agriculture ministers meeting in Tasmania have sold out farmers that wish to remain GE free.

"Organic farmers wanting to produce GE free canola products are in real trouble," Mr Cohen said.

"They are going to have to undergo expensive testing procedures to ensure their crops have not been contaminated.

"The Governments should have been trying to contain the contamination by ensuring next year's seed stock was completely GE free.

"Instead the Federal and State Governments have legalized ongoing contamination.

"NSW Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald should be ashamed that he has sold out NSW farmers.

"Many of those farmers rely upon the clean and green tag. GE contamination now poses a massive risk to their market advantage.

"The ministers should have agreed to bring in a strict liability scheme so that those companies producing the GE product compensate farmers for loss caused by any contamination of their GE free crop," Mr Cohen said.

Further Information: Ben Oquist 02 92303305 or 0419704095

4.Farmers call for compensation for GM contamination

The Primary Industries Ministerial Council agreed to adopt an Australian threshold level set at 0.9 percent GM contamination for canola crop and 0.5 percent for seed in the coming two seasons in 2006 and 2007, and there after the intention is to set a limit of 0.1 percent. The Network of Concerned Farmers are insisting on compensation for any losses caused by acceptance of GM tolerance levels.

"Why wasn't liability discussed at this meeting and how are we expected to manage a tolerance level when there is no practical testing regime to try to achieve it?" asked Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers.

"Accepting a blanket Australia wide tolerance level when the farmer has to pay for any market loss and testing costs is not a fair solution."

"We can not accept GM contamination if we are to be liable for it."

The NCF are angry at the section in the PIMC communique that states "Council agreed that where jurisdictions wish to adopt a GM free standard, industry will be required to develop effective testing, standards and protocols for a supply chain able to provide confidence that the grain is free from GM material."

"The Primary Industries Ministerial Council has set the precedent that the GM companies wanted. If states such as Western Australia want to protect farmers by maintaining a stricter standard, it is now up to those states to take the trouble to try to keep GM contamination out when it is known to be impossible to achieve."

Mrs Newman brings attention to the fact that Bayer Cropscience had a condition of license to provide a workable testing regime within 30 days of the granting of their license by the OGTR and she claims they have not done that.

"The agricultural industry is now expected to pay for trying to develop an effective testing regime which Bayer Cropscience obviously couldn't manage to achieve. Farmers should not be expected to subsidise the GM industry."

"A testing regime was a condition of license that has not been met and Bayer Cropsciences license should be withdrawn until it is."

The Network of Concerned Farmers has released a draft proposal for a strict liability regime. This involves the establishment of a profession tribunal to evaluate risk and a fee is set for license holders to pay into a contingency fund to cover contamination cleanup costs and compensation for proven economic losses.

"Most farmers are not prepared to take this risk to our industry and we should not be forced to take it without adequate risk management and fair legal recourse."

Contact: Julie Newman 08 98711562 or 08 98711644 Mobile 0427 711644

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