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GM crops a flop in North America / Benbrook in Oz (24/11/2005)

1.GM CROPS A FLOP IN THE USA
2.Canadian farmers get $1.2 billion prop

Non-GM farmers are continually told by the biotech industry and its supporters that they are suffering a huge competitive disadvantage by not growing GM crops. And Australian famers, in particular, have recently been on the receiving end of intensive lobbying to this effect

Nowhere have GM crops been embraced more than in North America. But according to the leading independent US agronomist, Dr Charles Benbrook, "U.S. farmers have lost billions of dollars in export sales" (item 1) as a result of GMOs. And we see the U.S. and Canada having to prop up their farming sectors to a massive degree (item 2).

Item 2 is an announcement from the Canadian Government of new federal assistance aimed at propping up Canada's grains and oilseeds producers - including producers of soya and canola - to the tune of $1.2 billion. The extra money is to help them deal with "unprecedented [and unspecified] challenges" they have encountered in recent years.

Loss of market access is certainly one to consider. According to a Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) economic study of GM crops "the US share of the EU's maize imports has fallen to virtually zero (from around 2/3 in the mid-1990s), as has Canada's share of EU canola imports (from 54% in the mid-1990s). GM-adopting countries have lost market share to GM-free suppliers".
http://www.geneethics.org/Default.aspx?tabid=85
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1.GE CROPS A FLOP IN THE USA: THE INSIDE STORY WITH DR CHARLES BENBROOK

DON'T MISS the chance to hear renowned US agricultural technology expert Dr Charles Benbrook on his national tour of Australia (Nov 28 to Dec 9, 2005).

A top policy adviser to the US government for 20 years, Chuck has the scientific credentials and research background to tell us what's really happening with GE crops in North America, and why we should say 'no' to them here.

Tour hosted by GeneEthics Network 03 9347 4500 or 0408 195 099
Media alert and Dr Benbrook's bio follow
For photos and media see:
www.geneethics.org
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GE crops will harm Australia warns US expert http://www.geneethics.org/Default.aspx?tabid=92
News Media Alert

Australia faces economic and environmental losses if it follows the United States and grows commercial genetically engineered (GE) crops, a leading expert in agricultural technology has warned. If Australia were to grow commercial GE canola it would enter the human food supply as vegetable oil and animal feed.

Dr Charles Benbrook, a former agricultural adviser to the Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations, is touring Australia to warn government ministers and farmers about the problems with the first decade of GE crops in the US.

"Australian agriculture faces losing its international status as 'clean and green' if it ignores the food safety, environmental and economic costs associated with today’s GE crop technologies," Dr Benbrook said.

"Lingering questions about the safety of GE crops and intense consumer pressure to assure the purity of the human food supply mean U.S. farmers have lost billions of dollars in export sales," he said.

His research into the reality of GE crops for American farmers has shown the promises made by GE companies to Australian farmers are false, particularly their claim that GE crops will mean less herbicide use to control weeds.

"Across the southeastern U.S., where soybean and cotton farmers have relied almost exclusively on GE technology for several years, the system is on the brink of collapse, the volume of herbicides used is setting new records and farmers’ profit margins are shrinking," Benbrook points out.

"Agricultural biotechnology rests on important, powerful advances in science but its practical benefits have been grossly oversold," he said.

Based on his analysis of the U.S. experience, Benbrook predicts that widespread planting of today's GE crops "will erode the sovereignty of Australian agriculture and allow multinational companies to gain a larger piece of the profit pie at the expense of farmers."

Bob Phelps, Executive Director of the GeneEthics Network, which is hosting Dr Benbrook's tour, said Australia was ill prepared for the side effects of GE crops.

"Despite state moratoria on commercial GE crops, thresholds of contamination which can ruin farm incomes overnight are now tolerated. GE and non-GE crops cannot be segregated and GE-free farmers are liable for the extra risks and costs of trying to avoid contamination."

Dr Benbrook will tell Australian audiences throughout rural and regional Australia that:

*U.S farmers have lost export markets because customers reject products contaminated by GE varieties;

*Hundreds of millions of dollars in Australian commodity exports are at risk of being lost;

*The U.S. government embraced GE crop technology in the early 1990s but failed to adopt the regulations and policies needed to accurately measure the costs, benefits and risks of GE crops and their products;

*The U.S. Department of Agriculture pesticide use data which Dr Benbrook analysed should worry Australian farmers. While GE herbicide-tolerant crops marginally reduced herbicide use in 1996 and 1997, new strains of herbicide resistant weeds have now forced GE farmers to spray more herbicides more often and they now use more herbicide than conventional farmers.

Dr Benbrook is touring Australia from November 27 to December 9, visiting Sydney, Canberra, Orange, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Horsham, Mt Gambier, Adelaide and Perth.

Further enquiries:
Bob Phelps 03 9347 4500/1300 133 868 or 0408 195 099
Wayne Slattery 0423 657 487
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Biographical Information - Dr Charles Benbrook

Dr. Charles Benbrook runs Benbrook Consulting Services, a consulting firm based in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Dr Benbrook has almost twenty years experience as a senior adviser in Washington DC on agricultural policy, science and regulatory issues. He served as the agricultural staff expert on the Council for Environmental Quality and The White House at the end of the Carter Administration, during a period of intense focus on soil conservation, farmland preservation, and pest management policy.

With the election of Ronald Reagan, Dr Benbrook moved to Capitol Hill and was the Executive Director of the Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture with jurisdiction over pesticide regulation, research, trade and foreign agricultural issues, and oversight of the USDA. He worked for the late Congressman George E. Brown, a great champion of agricultural research and progress toward more environmentally friendly technology and farming systems.

Dr Benbrook was recruited to the job of Executive Director, Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences, in early 1984. During seven-years as Executive Director, he helped establish the Board as a major voice on agricultural science and regulatory policy. In late 1990, he formed Benbrook Consulting Services.

Several Board on Agriculture projects in the 1980s addressed the promise of agricultural biotechnology. As a long-time expert in pesticide regulatory law, Dr Benbrook’s work extended to agricultural biotechnology issues in the early 1990s.

In 1998, he developed Ag BioTech InfoNet, (www.biotech-info.net) one of the Internet’s most extensive independent sources of technical, policy, and economic information on biotechnology. Dr Benbrook’s technical reports, comments to regulatory agencies, speeches and analyses are posted on the page.

For a variety of clients, he has commented extensively on Bt-transgenic plants, resistance management issues, impacts of herbicide tolerant plants on weed management and herbicide use, and the economic impacts of agricultural biotechnologies.

Other long-term activities include work on the implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act, as a consultant to Consumers Union (see the CU FQPA website www.ecologic-ipm.com) and participation in the University of Wisconsin-WWF-Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Association potato IPM project.

Benbrook has a PhD in agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University.
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MEDIA EVENTS

CANBERRA MEDIA CONFERENCE
Tuesday 29 November 12.15-12.45
Australian Parliament House
Room 2S1 (Senate side)

ORANGE MEDIA CONFERENCE
Thursday 1 December 11.30-Noon
Orange City Council, West Room

BRISBANE MEDIA CONFERENCE
Friday 2 December 1-1.30pm
Dandiir Room
Level 5 Parliamentary Annex

MELBOURNE MEDIA CONFERENCE:
Monday 5 December 1.00pm-1.30pm
Melbourne Museum, Activity Rooms A
Ground Level, Carlton Gardens, Carlton

HOBART MEDIA CONFERENCE
Tuesday 6 December 11.00-11.30am
Department of Primary Industries, Marine Board Building,
Conference Room Level 3, 1 Franklin Wharf, Hobart

HORSHAM MEDIA CONFERENCE
Wednesday 7 December 10.15-10.45am
Department of Primary Industries Grains Innovation Park
Yellow Gum Room
110 Natimuk Rd Horsham

MT GAMBIER MEDIA CONFERENCE
Wednesday 7 December 1:45-2:15pm
Vansittart Park
Commercial Rd Mt Gambier

ADELAIDE MEDIA CONFERENCE
Thursday 8 December 1.30-3pm
SA Parliament House
Balcony Room

PERTH MEDIA CONFERENCE
Friday 9 December 10:30 to 11pm
Doorstop, Front of Dumas House
2 Havelock St
West Perth

INDUSTRY AND PUBLIC EVENTS

CANBERRA INDUSTRY SEMINAR
Tuesday 29 November 1.00-2.30pm
Australian Parliament House, Room 2S1 (Senate side)
Hosted by Peter Andren, MP

SYDNEY INDUSTRY SEMINAR
Wednesday 30 November 11.30am-1.00pm
NSW Parliament House, Waratah Room Level 7
Hosted by Paul Pearce, MP

ORANGE PUBLIC MEETING
Wednesday 30 November 7.00 for 7.30pm
Environmental Learning Facility, Orange Showground, Leeds Parade
Hosted by Orange City Council

ORANGE INDUSTRY SEMINAR
Thursday 1 December 9.30-11.00am
Orange City Council, West Room

BRISBANE INDUSTRY SEMINAR
Friday 2 December 10.30-11.30am
Royal Geographic Society
237 Milton Road, Milton

BRISBANE PUBLIC MEETING (all welcome)
Thursday 1 December 7.00 for 7.30pm
The Peace Hall, 102 Macdonald Road, Albion
Hosted by Brisbane Organic Growers Inc

MELBOURNE INDUSTRY SEMINAR
Monday 5 December 11.30am-1.00pm
Melbourne Museum, Activity Rooms A and B
Ground Level, Carlton Gardens, Carlton

HOBART INDUSTRY SEMINAR
Tuesday 6 December 10.00-11.00am
Department of Primary Industries, Marine Board Building,
Conference Room Level 3, 1 Franklin Wharf, Hobart

HORSHAM PUBLIC MEETING
Tuesday 6 December 7.00 for 7.30pm
Department of Primary Industries Grains Innovation Park
Yellow Gum Room
110 Natimuk Rd Horsham

HORSHAM INDUSTRY SEMINAR
Wednesday 7 December 8.30-10am
Department of Primary Industries Grains Innovation Park
Yellow Gum Room
110 Natimuk Rd Horsham

ADELAIDE INDUSTRY SEMINAR (all welcome)
Thursday 8 December 1.30-3pm
SA Parliament House, Balcony Room
Hosted by Ian Gilfillan, MLC

PERTH INDUSTRY SEMINAR
Friday 9 December 1-2pm
Department of Agriculture Theatrette
3 Baron-Hay Court, South Perth
Tour hosted by GeneEthics Network 03 9347 4500 or 0419 881 729
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2.Canadian farmers get $1.2 billion prop up to encourage support of science investments
http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/news_details.asp?ID=2557
THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA ANNOUNCES FEDERAL ASSISTANCE FOR CANADA'S GRAINS AND OILSEEDS PRODUCERS
Ottawa, November 23, 2005

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Andy Mitchell today announced almost $755 million in emergency federal assistance for Canadian grains and oilseeds producers to address the severe economic hardship they are facing. These targeted emergency funds will help sustain the sector while federal, provincial and territorial governments work with industry to implement long-term solutions to address the root causes of declining farm income in Canada.

Grains and oilseeds producers have encountered unprecedented challenges in recent years. This funding provides stability at a critical time as they struggle to deal with pressures beyond their control, said Minister Mitchell. Financial stability is essential to placing grains and oilseeds producers on a solid footing to take advantage of innovations arising from our agricultural science investments, and to capture new market opportunities that could open up through global trade talks.

The value of grains and oilseeds production is down approximately $2 billion this year compared with the average over the past ten years. U.S domestic support for specific commodities, rising fuel prices, and a high Canadian dollar have had a major effect on these producers, along with poor weather conditions in some parts of the country.

Earlier this year, the Government of Canada announced the farm income payment program, which provided $439 million to grains and oilseeds producers. Combined with today's announcement, the Government is providing nearly $1.2 billion to address the needs of the grains and oilseeds sector. It is determined to work with the provinces on short term needs as well as longer-term transformative change.

It is a Government of Canada priority to facilitate transformational change for the sector to ensure long-term profitability for Canadian producers. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has a number of initiatives underway that will create new opportunities for all producers.

To help create sustainable competitive advantage, the Government of Canada is actively supporting ongoing innovation for the entire agricultural value-chain, based on Canada's traditional leadership in agricultural science. AAFC is currently consulting with stakeholders across the country to ensure that our science and research investments are used to Canada's greatest advantage in the coming years. This review of science priorities is culminating in an Agriculture Science and Innovation Symposium being held in Gatineau this week.

To create new opportunities, the Government of Canada continues to strive to level the international playing field for Canadian businesses through negotiations at the World Trade Organization. Canada's agricultural sector stands to benefit significantly from the realization of the goals Canada is pursuing: the elimination of export subsidies, substantial cuts to domestic subsidies (particularly in the U.S. and E.U.) and significant improvements in access to foreign markets.

As part of its long term strategy, the federal government is committed to ensuring that farmers, along with all other players in the sector, profit fairly from these advancements and opportunities. This was one of the significant points raised in Parliamentary Secretary Wayne Easter's report earlier this year.

The Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) and Production Insurance programs continue to help all producers manage the business risks of farming on an ongoing basis. During the first three years of the CAIS program, it is estimated that over $4 billion will have been paid to producers to help ensure stability in the agriculture sector.

The payments to grains and oilseeds producers from today's announcement will be considered as farm income in the calculations used to determine the benefits they receive under CAIS, resulting in a partial reduction in payments received through that program.

Steps are being taken to ensure this payment will be delivered as quickly as possible. Further details on it will become available in the coming weeks.

For more information on this announcement visit www.agr.gc.ca.

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
1-866-345-7972

Matt Tolley
Press Secretary
Minister Mitchell's Office
(613) 759-1059

Backgrounder

DIRECT PAYMENT TO GRAINS AND OILSEEDS PRODUCERS

Through today's announcement of $755 million, together with the $439 million provided through the Farm Income Payment program earlier this year, the Government of Canada is making nearly $1.2 billion available to address the immediate needs of grains and oilseeds producers.

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