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Farmers threaten legal action over GM crops (28/11/2007)

1.Lifting GM bans may trigger legal landslide
2.Farmers threaten legal action over GM crops

EXTRACT: The Australian Grain Harvesters Association is also aware of the risks of liability. It's been demanding its 500-odd members be protected from any potential legal action if there is any cross contamination, something treasurer, Rod Gribble, says has been ignored by every government except in Western Australia.

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1.Lifting GM bans may trigger legal landslide
By Melissa Jenkins Australian Associated Press, November 28 2007
http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,23636,22836569-31037,00.html

THE lifting of bans on genetically modified (GM) canola in NSW and Victoria will trigger a landslide of lawsuits from producers, Australia's largest organic farming body said today.

The warning follows concerns from the nation's largest publicly-listed food company that the axing of the bans will damage Australian exports to Europe.

The NSW and Victorian governments this week ended bans on GM canola crops, which are resistant to the widely used pesticide glyphosate.

Up until now, Queensland has been the only state in Australia where farmers were allowed to grow GM canola.

Scientists and farmers' groups applauded the move from the southern states, arguing GM canola was more environmentally sustainable, drought-resistant and better yielding than regular crops.

The Australian Greens and organic farming groups have slammed the decision, arguing canola is such a small grain, contamination via the wind, farming equipment and insects is inevitable.

Food manufacturer Goodman Fielder, which owns brands such as Meadow Lea, White Wings and Pampas, lobbied against lifting the bans.

Biological Farmers of Australia is the largest organic farming group in the nation and represents farmers, retailers, wholesalers and exporters.

Its subsidiaries oversee the certification of about 70 per cent of Australia's organic products.

Spokesman Scott Kinnear said he had no doubt there would be a string of law suits from non-GM and organic farmers next year, following contamination of their produce.

'It is one of the most promiscuous crops out there in terms of pollen flows,'' he told AAP.

'It is inevitable that there is going to be contamination.

'It will lead to litigation - there is no doubt at all in my mind.''

Contamination will occur not just between GM canola to regular canola but from GM canola to other types of grains, Mr Kinnear said.

Mr Kinnear warned unlabelled GM canola oil would flood the market.

He said governments had ignored the health risks linked to GM foods, which contain ingredients that can turn genes on and off.

A study in Russia where rats were fed GM soy found the animals had a high infant mortality rate, and their offspring were sterile and much smaller than the non-GM soy control group, Mr Kinnear said.

'It is really alarming that these sorts of adverse reactions have been found but not been followed up,'' he said.

'There is the potential there for really serious things to go wrong.

'Why would you want to take that risk with your family and your kids?''

Greens GM spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said it was not possible to segregate GM and traditional crops and non-GM farmers would unfairly be cut out of the European and Japanese markets.

'They have taken choice away because now non-GM farmers will be shut out of markets because if markets truly don't want GM material, they just won't be buying from Victoria and NSW because of the risk of contamination,'' she told AAP.

Goodman Fielder wrote to state premiers and ministers for agriculture.

'Goodman Fielder is of the view that, in a world of ever-increasing globalisation, Australia's current status as a GM-free crop producer gives the country an essential international competitive advantage that it would be counter-productive to place in jeopardy,'' chief executive Peter Margin wrote.

'It is our view that the alleged economic advantages of growing genetically modified crops will be more than negated by our weakened market positioning and inevitable lower financial returns.

'In this context it should be emphasised that European markets continue to be reliant on non-genetically modified crops and that these markets would be expected to be closed to Australian grain should our current non-GM status change.''

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2.Farmers threaten legal action over GM crops decision [shortened]
Reporter: Tanya Nolan
ABC, The World Today, W28 November 2007
http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2007/s2103515.htm

TANYA NOLAN: Scott Kinnear is the spokesman for Biological Farmers of Australia, the largest organic farming organisation in the country representing not only growers, but suppliers and exporters. It also covers the licensing of around 70 per cent of all organic products.

And he says organic farmers are reserving the right to take legal action should any of their products be contaminated with GM canola.

SCOTT KINNEAR: Canola is the most promiscuous grain that they could have chosen if they wanted to choose something that doesn't pollinate, then it wouldn't have been an issue. Pineapples for example is a good example of something that doesn't pollinate, it comes from cuttings.

But canola is the worst of the worst and, you know, it's the Trojan horse of GM to get it in there and there's this perception that once we get canola in there, everything else will flow, and that's a real concern.

TANYA NOLAN: Biological Farmers of Australia says that the millions of dollars offered to farmers by GM crops would not compare with the losses potentially faced by Australia's organic food industry, should it be contaminated by GM products.

Scott Kinnear says his organisation doesn't agree that organic and GM farming can co-exist, but has some minimum standards if it does go ahead on a commercial level.

SCOTT KINNEAR: If they insist on growing it, then we would like to see a similar system come in to what's been imposed in Europe, which is strict liability on the GM farmers, and also the GM farmers have to contribute to a fund which provides for all of the testing requirements, looking for evidence of contamination.

TANYA NOLAN: The Australian Grain Harvesters Association is also aware of the risks of liability. It's been demanding its 500-odd members be protected from any potential legal action if there is any cross contamination, something treasurer, Rod Gribble, says has been ignored by every government except in Western Australia

ROD GRIBBLE: As in the T and C, the terms and conditions of the Technology Users Agreement, which the biotech companies will request the growers to sign, all responsibility is handed onto the grower, and all the liability, and so that's what we'll be doing as well.

TANYA NOLAN: But Simon Ramsay from the Victorian Farmers Federation says it's something farmers have been copping for years, and the risks of GM cropping are no greater

SIMON RAMSAY: Just because they a GM plant, if you like, is grown on a particular property, does it pose a greater risk to a next-door property? I don't see why. There is common law in place to deal with issues of economic loss.

TANYA NOLAN: Farmers appear to be ambivalent about their GM future. Rural newspaper The Land conducted a survey in October of more than 700 farmers and more than 50 per cent said they did not want to see GM crops grown in Australia.

And there is a chance, however small, that the commercial planting of GM canola, will not go ahead. The minister responsible has the right to veto any application if the risks are deemed too high. But the New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Ian Macfarlane is convinced all the right protections are in place.

IAN MACFARLANE: If the protocol is not up to scratch, I certainly would veto it, but I believe that it is possible to segregate and to have its own chain.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Ian Macfarlane, speaking to Tanya Nolan.

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