Australian farmers call for extension of GE crop bans (6/2/2008)

1.Australian farmers call for extension of GE crop bans
2.GM crops costly, Canadian warns
3.GM bananas in field trials


1.Australian farmers call for extension of GE crop bans

Victoria, Wednesday 6 February 2008: At a public meeting in the grain growing region of Corowa New South Wales last night, Australian farmers passed a resolution calling for State Governments to extend the moratoria on the commercial growing of genetically engineered (GE) food crops and demanded that the issue be discussed at the Federal Government's 2020 Summit in April 2008.

Over 200 people attended the public meeting to hear Vice President of the Canadian National Farmers Union, Terry Boehm, and grain farmer Arnold Taylor speak frankly on Canada's experience of commercially growing GE canola.

At a press conference at Parliament House in Melbourne this morning, the Canadians addressed issues such as seed control, liability and segregation of GE and non-GE crops which failed in Canada after a few years - resulting in the collapse of the non-GE and organic canola industries.

Against the interests of other states, both the New South Wales and Victorian Governments recently announced they will lift their bans on GE food crops. South Australia is also pending a decision. GE canola is the first GE food crop approved for commercial release in Australia and state bans have prevented planting till now.

Vice President of the Canadian National Farmers Union, Terry Boehm said, 'Whatever Canadian farmers have saved by simplified weed control has been taken away by increased costs in seed and the additional technology use fees. Since the introduction of GE canola in Canada, seed prices have risen drastically and corporate control over farmers is tighter than ever before. There are constant threats of litigation to the extent that farmers are complying with company conditions disallowing them from saving seed rather than using their own because they are scared of being sued.'

The introduction of GE canola in Canada has resulted in extensive litigation, both by biotech companies sueing for patent infringement and by farmers sueing for the loss of their GE-free marketing advantage. Mr Taylor, Chair of the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund, has been involved in a legal battle with Monsanto and Bayer CropScience on GE canola contamination since 2001. As in Canada, under Australian common law, non-GE farmers will have little legal recourse when the inevitable contamination does occur.

GE canola is grown only in Northern United States and Canada. Australia is the only other country considering to introduce the crop. Farmers in Canada rejected the proposed commercialisation of GE wheat and GE flax due to the experience of contamination and loss of markets from GE canola.

Michelle Sheather, Greenpeace's Genetic Engineering Campaign Coordinator said, 'Following Canada's experience, the New South Wales and Victorian governments should reverse their decisions and extend the GE food crop bans for at least 5 years. State Governments should also introduce liability legislation, to protect farmers and consumers from unwanted GE contamination,' concluded Ms Sheather.

The Farmers will tour Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and rural canola growing areas in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

For more information on farmers tour visit:

Media interviews contact:
Teri Calder, Communications Officer: 0419 697 515

2.GM crops costly, Canadian warns
Daniel Lewis Regional Reporter
Brisbane Times, February 6 2008

FARMERS who embrace genetically modified crops will become slaves to biotechnology companies, the vice-president of Canada's National Farmers Union has warned Australia's agricultural sector.

Terry Boehm, a canola grower who is on a four-state speaking tour, said the introduction of genetically modified canola in his homeland more than a decade ago had impoverished farmers and led to an exodus from the land. Biotechnology companies charged farmers a very high price, he said, and switching to GM had cost Canada its European market.

Bans on growing modified canola in NSW and Victoria will end in a month, making the planting of such crops possible for the first time in Australia.

Mr Boehm said it had been impossible in Canada to segregate modified and conventional canola. The conventional canola was deemed GM because of cross-contamination.

Mr Boehm, whose tour is sponsored by Greenpeace and the Network of Concerned Farmers, said he had stockpiled conventional seed and did not have to deal with biotechnology companies. Farmers in Canada using modified canola had costs about three times higher than his per hectare, Mr Boehm said, but their yields were the same.

The National Farmers Federation supported ending the NSW ban on modified canola, arguing conventional crops would be protected and access to GM was needed to compete internationally. Supporters of modified canola say it increases yields, reduces herbicide use and is more profitable.


3.GM bananas in field trials
ABC News, 6 February 2008

Australia's first genetically modified bananas could be growing in North Queensland by mid-year.

Scientists from the Queensland University of Technology will trial Cavendish bananas with extra genes that increase the levels of pro-vitamin A and iron in the fruit.

The technology will then be used to improve banana varieties in Uganda, where mineral and vitamin deficiencies are a big problem.

Professor James Dale says the field trials are a major step forward for the project.

'It will be the first field trial of genetically modified bananas in Australia and one of probably only three or four in the world', he says.

'It will be a very big step for us, fabulous to see the sort of genesis going from that first cell that we transformed back to a plant in the field, it's fairly exciting'.

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive