Non-GM farmers call for strict liability on GM crops (3/12/2007)

1.Non-GM farmers call for strict liability on GM crops
2.Farmers concerned about GM technology

1.Non-GM farmers call for strict liability on GM crops

Tuesday, 4th December 2007: The Network of Concerned Farmers are calling for strict liability legislation to be introduced to protect non-GM farmers from the inevitable economic losses that will occur if genetically modified (GM) canola is introduced in New South Wales. The National Party and the Greens are both expected to introduce strict liability amendments to the Government's Gene Technology (GM Crop Moratorium) Amendment Bill when it is discussed in NSW Parliament today.

Juliet McFarlane, a canola grower and the New South Wales spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers said 'Non-GM farmers should be given a fair go. They should not have to bear economic losses as a result of the inevitable contamination of non-GM canola crops that will occur if GM canola is introduced in New South Wales.'

A report by the Network of Concerned Farmers released last week, concluded that Australian canola farmers will be hundreds of million dollars a year worse off if GM canola is introduced (1). Strict liability legislation would mean that biotechnology companies would have to pay for any damage caused by their products. This would mean that if a non-GM farmer's field was contaminated with GM canola, resulting in economic or environmental damage, they would be able to claim compensation from the company.

Arthur Bowman, a canola grower from Molong, said 'In North America Monsanto is sueing farmers who have had their land contaminated with GM crops for patent infringement. We can't let the same thing happen in Australia. I'm appalled with the misinformation given by key people in this debate.'

As of October 26, 2007, Monsanto had filed 112 lawsuits against farmers in the US for alleged violations of its Technology Agreement and/or its patents on genetically modified seeds. These cases have involved 372 farmers and 49 small farm businesses. Sums awarded to Monsanto in 57 recorded judgments against farmers total US$21,583,431.99 (2).

'If industry is confident that it can effectively segregate then we expect it to support strict liability legislation. Non-GM farmers should not have to suffer as the result of the introduction of a technology that they do not want and do not need,' said Mrs McFarlane.

Recent polls show that only 27.6% of Australian farmers want to grow GM crops and the majority of Australian consumers don't want to eat them (3). Over 250 Australian companies have recently spoken out against GM crops including Australia's biggest lamb exporter, Tatiara meats and Australia's largest end user of canola Goodman Fielder.

Juliet McFarlane, Young NSW, (02) 6382 2509
Arthur Bowman, (02) 6366 8229; 0427 455 707

(1) The report: The Economics of Genetically Modified Canola can be viewed at: http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/documents/GM%20Canola%20report-full.pdf

(2) Center for Food Safety (2007) Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers: November 2007 Update, www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/Monsanto%20November%202007%20update.pdf

(3) Sources: Rural Press National News Service, Parliament House Bureau, Canberra, cited in: Skuthorp, L (2007) FARM POLL: Mandate ethanol, but give GM a miss, 4/10/07, http://nqr.farmonline.com.au/news_daily.asp?ag_id=45891; Swinburne University (2007) Media release: Australians more relaxed about wind farms than the Internet, 24/10/07, http://www.swinburne.edu.au/corporate/marketing/mediacentre/core/releases_article.php?releaseid=996


2.Farmers concerned about GM technology
Amy Robinson Young News, 3 December 2007

NSW Farmers Association welcome the state government's decision to end the four year moratorium on Genetically Modified (GM) canola crops, saying it is a win for the future prosperity of agriculture.

President Jock Laurie said this will offer farmers a choice on using GM technology, putting them on a level playing field with overseas farmers.

'NSW farmers now have a choice as to whether they want to grow GM canola or not and customers will be able to decide whether or not they want to buy them - this is all about informed choice,' he said.

Local canola grower and member of the Network of Concerned Farmers Juliet McFarlane says this decision will be a financial disaster for farmers and will remove choice for growers and consumers.

'I don't understand how Mr Laurie can possibly suggest we will be on a level playing field with overseas farmers who are so heavily subsidised,' she said.

'You have to wonder why subsidies are necessary in Canada, our main export competition, if the GM technology is so good. We will not be given a choice as there is no suitable on ground test for farmers to detect the GM content of their canola.

'Growers will be expected to guess as to whether their canola contains less than 0.9 per cent for non GM at delivery point. If farmers guess incorrectly they will be liable for any inadvertent contamination from neighbouring GM crops and residual GM canola left in harvesters.'

She said that segregation protocols have been developed by the GM industry without any input from growers and said she was surprised these protocols have given all the costs and liabilities to non GM growers. She said this will make it too difficult and too expensive to segregate and thereby forcing all growers to sell on a highly competitive GM market.

'We will lose our premiums or up to $60 per tonne as well as our unrestricted market access. It is quite disgraceful for the NSW Farmers Association to be promoting an unproven technology where there is such widespread farmer and consumer resistance. They have now kow-towed to the GM industries resistance on a pathway to market without any demonstration of worth. What other industry is expected to accept a new irreversible product without knowing any costs on performance,' she said.

Mr Laurie said the decision to end the four year moratorium on GM canola crops is a win for the environment, potentially meaning fewer emissions and less chemical use, healthier soil and more sustainable farming practices.

Ms McFarlane said in the long run, the occurrence of herbicide resistant canola will not be less negative to the environment at all.

'The chemical company Nufarm, which has purchased Monsanto's are Round Up Ready (RR) GM canola distribution rights in Australia says that the only agronomic difference between RR GM canola and traditional varieties is the inability to kill RR canola with Round Up,' she said.

'Despite this clear message agricultural leaders and scientists are claiming greater yield and increased oil content, which is highly misleading.

The increased use of Round Up under a GM regime will hasten the increase of resistance in weeds and jeopardise its long term use. It will also mean farmers will have to return to using older and more dangerous chemicals such as Diovat, Paraquat and 24-D to kill unwanted GM canola volunteers.'

She said these chemicals make the users have bleeding noses and cause nausea and are much harsher on the natural environment than Round Up.

'This is not a healthy legacy to be passing on to the next generation of young farmers. Neither Monsanto's RR GM canola or Bayers Invigor canola will control our most problematic weed in canola, wild radish, only non GM TT canola will do that.'

Member for Burrinjuck Katrina Hodgkinson is seeking comments from residents across the Burrinjuck electorate regarding proposed amendments.

'I am seeking urgent responses as the time line is short with the Bill, which was only seen by the state opposition for the first time on Tuesday, due for debate when Parliament resumes tomorrow,' she said.

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