2.Canadian scientist warns of problems with GM canola
3.GM canola 'contaminated' Canadian farms
EXTRACT: Farmers in western Canada recently rejected the proposed commercialisation of GE wheat, largely on the basis of a lack of confidence in our ability to segregate GE and non-GE wheat. Australia and its farmers have a valuable opportunity to learn from the Canadian experience. (item 2)
1.Canola growers 'worried' about GM crops
ABC News, 5 February 2008 http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/05/2154657.htm
The New South Wales Opposition says canola growers in the state's north-west have serious concerns about the introduction of genetically-modified (GM) crops.
The moratorium on planting GM canola expires at the end of the month, paving the way for commercial production with the approval of Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald.
Inverell-based Nationals MLC Rick Colless has hosted a visit to State Parliament where visiting Canadian farmers warned of the dangers of introducing GM crops.
Mr Colless says most canola producers have told him they will not switch to GM seeds.
'While I suspect that this year there may be some commercial crops gown using genetically engineered seed, I suspect that the vast majority of farmers up our way will still opt for the non-genetically engineered canola,' he said.
'I just hope that they can maintain their integrity, keeping their crops segregated from those who choose to grow the genetically engineered crops.'
2.Look to Canada for GE solutions
Rene Van Acker
Canberra Times, 5 February 2008
[Dr Van Acker is professor and chair of the Department of Plant Agriculture at Canada's University of Guelph]
The NSW and Victorian state governments announced late last year that they would let their bans on genetically engineered food crops expire early this year. The South Australian Government is also reviewing its bans. Before Australia commits to growing genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant canola, it has an opportunity to learn from Canada, where it has been grown commercially for more than a decade.
Australians still have a small chance to enact mechanisms and avoid some of the problems Canadians have encountered.
Segregation of GE and non-GE crops can be challenging.
The level of challenge depends very much upon the nature of the crop.
The movement of GE genes (transgenes) from crop to crop depends upon the crop species.
Canola is possibly the worst candidate crop species for practical segregation of GE and non-GE because it is inherently promiscuous.
In Canada, we have witnessed the promiscuity of GE canola to the extent that even in our canola seed production systems, where the objective is to keep seed varieties free from foreign genes, more than 90 per cent of certified Canadian canola seed samples contain unintended transgenes (GE).
This has led Canadian farmers to expect GE canola in any canola they grow, whether it is GE or not.
The experience of transgene (GE) movement in Canadian GE canola is extremely important for Australia to pay attention to.
In Canada, we no longer export canola to countries that expect it to be GE-free, including many European Union nations, and growing organic canola in western Canada is no longer at all practical.
The latter situation has resulted in a protracted lawsuit by the organisation representing Saskatchewan's organic farmers (the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate) against Monsanto and Bayer CropScience.
Canadian farmers have also found that the movement of GE traits can affect how they farm. This is especially so with Monsanto's GE canola, which is totally resistant to glyphosate herbicide.
As in Australia, zero-tillage farming is fundamentally important to farmers in Canada, helping them to conserve precious soil moisture and cut costs.
Zero-tillage farming is critically dependent upon glyphosate herbicide to replace tillage prior to seeding.
The presence of GE canola weeds growing prior to the seeding of subsequent crops has required farmers in Canada to use extra herbicides (besides glyphosate) prior to seeding.
This adds costs, and because GE canola cannot be contained, this cost is now borne by all farmers in Canada whether they grow GE canola or not.
Canadian farmers who chose not to grow GE canola aren't able to hold anyone liable for the uninvited presence of GE canola on their farms.
To date, court cases in Canada have proven that no one is liable if the GE canola has received commercial release from the Government.
It has also become clear that if farmers choose to try to keep their farms free from GE canola, it is their responsibility to do so and they must bear the costs.
Ironically, the now famous Schmeiser case, where Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser was successfully sued by Monsanto for the unintended presence of their patented GE canola on his farm, made clear that Canadian farmers who chose not to grow GE canola can still be held liable by the patent holder for the unintended presence of it on their farms.
In Canada, more than a decade of commercial cultivation experience has allowed us to learn valuable lessons about both the benefits and costs of growing GE canola, and we are now using these lessons.
Farmers in western Canada recently rejected the proposed commercialisation of GE wheat, largely on the basis of a lack of confidence in our ability to segregate GE and non-GE wheat.
Australia and its farmers have a valuable opportunity to learn from the Canadian experience.
I hope they do so.
3.GM canola 'contaminated' Canadian farms
The Age, February 3 2008 http://news.theage.com.au/gm-canola-contaminated-canadian-farms/20080204-1pzh.html
Canadian farmers have experienced 'widespread contamination' of their crops by genetically modified (GM) canola, two visiting farmers say.
Terry Boehm, vice president of the Canadian National Farmers Union, and grain farmer Arnold Taylor are embarking on a 10-day Australian tour as both NSW and Victoria are set to relax their bans on GM food crops.
'For Canadian farmers, they have experienced widespread contamination,' Mr Boehm told reporters in Sydney.
'There are issues of liability that haven't been addressed, producers are facing much increased costs for their seed - they are paying technology-use fees that are required in order to access the GM seeds.
'It is often quoted that in Canada, 80 to 90 per cent of the canola is GM canola. Well, farmers have had no ability to sell their crop as non-GM canola.'
The pair also said buffer zones, which were designed to stop the spread of GM canola across farm or regional boundaries, did not work.
'There is no organic canola grown in Canada any more, virtually none, because the seed stock is basically contaminated,' said Mr Arnold, who is also chair of the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund.
'We've lost that crop.'
The NSW and Victorian governments announced late last year that they would let their bans on GM engineered food crops expire early this year.
The South Australian government is also reviewing its bans.
The tour by the Canadian farmers, which is backed by Greenpeace, will also take them to Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, as well as rural districts.