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Oz farm lobby groups in bed with GM lobbyists (8/11/2005)

This is extraordinary. The leading lights of a Western Australian farmers' group (WAFarmers) brag in a recent press release about how they have been "lobbied by the major players in GM technology" and then repeat the claims of those lobbyists as if they were matters of fact.

This is combined with a call for Western Australia's Agriculture Minister to stop "politicising" the GM issue, and to stop "working in isolation within the comfort zone provided by the [GM] moratorium", and to embrace instead "the wealth of knowledge available through industry expertise"!

It's not everyday a government minister is baldly advised to give up his political judgement in favour of heavily-lobbied industry advice! But such a corrupt proposition apparently makes perfect sense to the President and the Communications Officer of WAFarmers. (see the press release below)

Meanwhile, an ex-Monsanto manager for GM crops in Australia publicly boasts about how he has helped to "evolve" the policies of "the Gene Technology Grains Committee, Australian Seeds Federation, Australian Oilseeds Federation and more recently Ausbiotech, and the Grains Council of Australia."

In short, it seems to be GM industry lobbyists who shape the policies of the bodies that supposedly represent Australia's farmers.
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From Julie Newman of the Network of Concerned Farmers:

Hi Jonathon,

This is an interesting story http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=2514

Confirms how heavily lobbied our lobby groups are. What are the companies saying, that the existing varieties are not good enough?

Extract - "WAFarmers has been recently lobbied by the major players in GM technology and they have made it clear that further trials in WA will not happen unless there is a clear path to market for their product. Nor are they likely to conduct trials until such time as they can be confident of a new seed variety that will clearly demonstrate benefits over existing conventionally bred varieties. In effect, if all barriers were cleared today, it would be two to three years before trials were recommenced."

Also, I found this in the Gene Technology Act review submissions. David Hudson (known for always saying "Just call me Rocky") is the ex- Monsanto manager for GM crops in Australia. Why exactly is he so influential in the policy of Grains Council of Australia?
http://www.health.gov.au/internet/wcms/publishing.nsf/Content/EE07F6CC6BBFA835CA257065000A3B60/$File/sga_070.pdf

The principle of SGA Solutions, David Hudson has over ten years experience working in the agbiotech industry and was intimately involved with the introduction of Australia's first fibre crop derived from biotechnology – Ingard Cotton ( Bt cotton) and the first food crop derived from biotechnology – Roundup Ready canola.

David has an extensive and in-depth working knowledge of the OGTR Act and its application to the agbiotech industry, together with intimate knowledge of the machinations of the OGTR and the political environment within which it operates.

David has been actively engaged in the evolution of the grains and seed industries policies and strategies for the introduction of agbiotech products for Australia, having active involvement in the development of policies for the Gene Technology Grains Committee, Australian Seeds Federation, Australian Oilseeds Federation and more recently Ausbiotech, and the Grains Council of Australia.

When you read that with the story about GCA, liability and legal action http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=2419 , you start to see that the farm lobby groups are making decisions against policy and for the GM industry.

Hope all is well.
Regards, Julie
...

IT'S DECISION TIME ON GMOs
Media release
27 October 2005

WAFarmers has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Hon Kim Chance to immediately announce the establishment of a high level advisory group to assist him in reviewing the State's current GMO moratorium.

WAFarmers President, Trevor De Landgrafft, said that the call comes after the most recent discovery of contamination in Canola seed and participating in an industry forum reviewing the operations of the Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR).

"The Minister is on the record as being angry at WA's canola crop being contaminated by stealth and that's understandable. He now needs to move on and address the issue before the crop is harvested."

"WA's canola growers have to sign a declaration at delivery that their canola is GM free. Clearly this is now not the case in some areas of the State and whilst the contamination level is miniscule, the fact is that with the current moratorium in place, growers are operating in an environment of zero tolerance."

"The Minister's high level advisory group needs to be convened as a matter of urgency and get down to business to negotiate GM tolerance levels that will ensure that this year's canola harvest is able to be processed through to market."

The recent industry forum reviewing the OGTR legislation highlighted the chicken and egg situation in relation to progressing the GM debate in Western Australia.

Mr De Landgrafft said that it is clear that across Australia, State moratoriums have politicised the OGTR process and whilst in WA, the moratorium has served its purpose in buying the industry time to obtain further information on pros and cons of GM technology, it is now clear that the industry is ready to move on.

"WAFarmers has been recently lobbied by the major players in GM technology and they have made it clear that further trials in WA will not happen unless there is a clear path to market for their product. Nor are they likely to conduct trials until such time as they can be confident of a new seed variety that will clearly demonstrate benefits over existing conventionally bred varieties. In effect, if all barriers were cleared today, it would be two to three years before trials were recommenced."

"From a grower perspective, new technologies will not be taken on board unless clear financial and market benefits are evident, risks assessed and risk management strategies developed and the only way for these issues to be demonstrated and assessed is through commercial trailing of GM varieties. WAFarmers members are now calling for these trials to be implemented."

"However, from both the farmer and scientific perspective, the current moratorium is standing in the way of progress. Again, the high level advisory group can assist the Minister in reviewing the moratorium."

WAFarmers believes that it is time that the Minister ceased working in isolation within the comfort zone provided by the moratorium on the GM issue and embraced the wealth of knowledge available through industry expertise.

"With harvest under way in the northern region, timing is critical. WAFarmers will be meeting with the Minister in the near future to progress this issue and in the interim, encourages the Minister to move forward with the urgency that this issue demands." Mr De Landgrafft said.

For further information contact:
Trevor De Landgrafft President (08) 9486 2100
Luke Bolton Communications Officer (08) 9486 2100/0428 840 960

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