|Human error "probable cause" of GM canola mix-up in Oz (7/9/2006)|
EXCERPT: "The mystery still remains as to what the source of the contamination is."
GM WATCH COMMENT: Does anyone believe this is a controllable technology? And there's a lot at stake. As one farming expert told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation recently, being GM-free has been critical to helping Australia escape very low oilseed (canola) prices: "Where Australia has been benefitted is that our rapeseed is GM-free, free of genetically modified organisms, so we have been their preferred supplier into that EU market for the past 18 months or so."
Human error 'probable cause' of GM canola mix-up
Human error has been identified as the most likely cause of the genetically-modified contamination of conventional canola two years ago.
Low level contamination of the commercially-grown 'grace' variety was discovered in 2005 during routine sampling of canola exports.
A trial of GM canola was conducted in Tasmania in 1998, and a year later grace canola was grown on a separate site three kilometres away, but an investigation by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator has found that is not how the contamination occured.
Alex Schaap from Tasmania's Department of Primary Industry says there is not enough evidence to provide a definite answer.
"The mystery still remains as to what the source of the contamination is," he said.
"The only hypothesis left standing is some form of human error, perhaps something as simple as somebody not labelling seed bags correctly, and seed hence being mixed."
The peak grains research body says it is continuing negotiations to try to secure the commercial release of genetically modified crops.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation is funding research into GM canola, which cannot be released to farmers because of state-imposed bans on the technology.
Chairman Terry Enright says the benefits of GM crops, such as disease tolerant wheat and barley, need to be proven.
"We're positively working with industry and with governments in a dialogue to make sure that we overcome these issues that are there," he said.
"And we're hopeful in the long term that if crops become available and can be assessed on a crop by crop basis, if they demonstrate benefit to the industry, that ultimately we'll be able to grow them, if that is what is required."
Meanwhile, Nufarm has bought the licence to develop and commercialise genetically-modified canola.
The agribusiness company has paid $10 million for Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola licence and germ plasm.
Monsanto was not able to commercialise the variety in Australia, due to the State Government moratoriums on GM crops.