Australia: GM contamination of organic crop confirmed
Narelle Towie, Environment Reporter
December 24, 2010
AUTHORITIES have confirmed Kojonup organic oat farmer Steve Marsh's worst fears, that his harvest is contaminated with genetically modified canola.
The Department of Agriculture delivered the devastating news to Mr Marsh today. The farm's organic certification has already been suspended by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia and he stands to lose thousands in this year's harvest alone.
The contamination is believed to have spread from a neighbouring property over 293 hectares - or more than half - of the farm. ”¨”¨Mr Marsh is the first farmer in the state to have his organic status destroyed since Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman approved an exemption order in January, which permits the cultivation of GM crops in WA. ”¨”¨The move brought WA in line with other crop-growing states including NSW and Victoria.
Mr Marsh is seeking legal advice but said that it's not going to be a very Merry Christmas for his family this year.
"The timing is not perfect, we're looking at losing a fair proportion of our livelihood," Mr Marsh said.
"But when these things happen, it takes a fair amount of time to get a grasp of the full extent and full impact of what has occurred."
The Department of Agriculture refused to answer questions on the matter.
The seeds which spread onto Mr Marsh's property are called "Roundup Ready" canola and developed by global biotechnology giant Monsanto. They render plants resistant to the company's herbicide.
Monsanto did not return calls from The Sunday Times but is reportedly giving legal support to Mr Marsh's neighbour - the GM grower.
Mr Redman said WA GM protocols will be revised in light of the contamination.
"It would be preferable for industry to re-look at these at a national level, rather than have WA establish its own, state-based rules. DAFWA is prepared to provide input into such a process."
“This is an unfortunate incident. As far as I am aware, this situation has not arisen anywhere else in Australia, and is the only incident of this type reported in WA," Mr Redman said.
Opposition agriculture minister Mick Murray has called on Mr Redman to 'clean up the mess'.”¨”¨ Mr Redman told Parliament in April 2009 that GM canola farmers could face expensive legal action by neighbours whose crops have been affected, Mr Murray said.”¨”¨"The Minister said there was no necessity for State Government intervention and it would not compensate farmers who detected contamination," he said.
Mr Redman said GM canola was planted across 70 thousand hectares of WA land this year. "The feedback we're getting is that it has performed well in difficult conditions," Mr Redman said.”¨”¨"A number of different farming systems have successfully co-existed in WA for many years, and I remain confident that we can maintain that co-existence."