1.Ag Ministers bow to biotech bandits
2.Governments endorse GE contamination
3.Organic Farmers Deplore GM Decision
"The decision to allow the sale of GE contaminated seeds next year supports the interests of biotech companies, not farmers." (item 1)
"We will have no option but to recommend to our farmers that they do not grow organic canola in Australia from now on. This mirrors the decision taken some years ago by more than 1000 organic canola farmers in Canada who are seeking to sue Bayer and Monsanto for loss of income through a certified class action." (item 3)
"Overseas grain marketers and regulators had set a 0.9% GE threshold only for occasional accidental contamination of food, not the routine pollution that our Agriculture Ministers have accepted." (item 2)
"With virtually no consumer acceptance of their products, it appears as though Bayer have adopted a strategy of contamination in order to force the Australian farming community to adopt GE canola against their wishes. And it looks like Federal and State Governments are going along with it." (item 1)
1.Ag Ministers bow to biotech bandits
GREENPEACE MEDIA RELEASE
Thursday October 27, 2005: Yesterday's historic decision by State Agriculture Ministers to legalise GE seed contamination sets a precedent that will have far reaching impacts for farmers and consumers, and lets biotech companies off the hook for GE contamination of Australian crops.
The new contamination levels virtually guarantees that widespread low level GE contamination will continue indefinitely.
"The decision to allow the sale of GE contaminated seeds next year supports the interests of biotech companies, not farmers," said John Hepburn, Greenpeace GE campaigner. "Seed companies will be able to sell contaminated seed to farmers, without having to tell them. This is a recipe for further contamination and will add further costs and difficulties for organic and GMO free growers".
The Primary Industries Ministerial Council announced today that they would allow up to 0.5% contamination of seeds for 2006 and 2007 and would try to reduce this to 0.1% in future years.
"They're putting the interests of reckless biotech companies ahead of farmers and the community", Hepburn said. "If governments are serious about the GE moratoria, and about cleaning up contamination, they need to insist on zero detectable contamination of seed. This is the only way to eliminate contamination".
Each hectare of canola has up to 600,000 plants. 0.1% contamination means 600 GE canola plants per hectare, each of which can produce between 5,000 -10,000 seeds. So with 0.1% seed contamination threshold, this means 3 - 6 million GE canola seeds produced per hectare making ongoing contamination of fields and supply chains inevitable.
"Seed contamination thresholds are a major blow to farmers and consumers wanting to grow and eat GE-free. With virtually no consumer acceptance of their products, it appears as though Bayer have adopted a strategy of contamination in order to force the Australian farming community to adopt GE canola against their wishes", Hepburn said. "And it looks like Federal and State Governments are going along with it."
Agriculture Ministers also announced an allowable 0.9% GE contamination threshold for this year's canola harvest - enabling farmers to sell this years harvest and protecting them from liability. This decision is in response to widespread contamination of conventional canola with Bayer's GE canola variety known as 'Topas'. Three commercial varieties Grace, Stubb and Beacon have been found to be contaminated.
It remains to be seen how the 0.9% threshold will be enforced and who will pay the costs involved in testing and cleanup.
"This whole debacle shows exactly why strict liability legislation is required to force biotech companies to take responsibility for negative impacts of their products," Hepburn said. "If Agriculture ministers are serious about our GE-free status, they need to insist on zero seed contamination, and introduce strict liability for GE companies."
Communications Officer: Carolin Wenzel (02) 9263 0358 0417 668 957
Campaigner: John Hepburn (02) 9263 0306 0407 231 172
2.Governments endorse GE contamination
GeneEthics Network Media Release - October 27 2005
The Agriculture Ministers have legalised GE canola contamination. They forgave gene technology and seed companies, and the quarantine service, for their failure to obey the law and keep Australian canola GE-free.
"Allowing GE contamination of 0.9% in harvested grain will not satisfy the majority of shoppers here and overseas who want GE-free foods," says GeneEthics Director Bob Phelps.
"The Ministers could have opted for a strategy to clean up GE pollution by seed testing, GE-free seed certification and zero detectable GE contamination from next year," he says.
"State governments can apply tougher rules than those adopted by the Ministers and we will encourage them to work towards being really GE-free again, with all the marketing pluses that brings," he says.
"Farmers may harvest their crop this year, no GE contamination questions asked, but there are no guarantees the crop will sell on all world markets as it did when GE-free," he says.
"Overseas grain marketers and regulators had set a 0.9% GE threshold only for occasional accidental contamination of food, not the routine pollution that our Agriculture Ministers have accepted," he says.
"The Ministers will also allow the sale of canola seed contaminated with 0.5% GE for the next two years, so unsuspecting farmers will continue to spread GE indefinitely, on their farms, in the environment and into supply chains," Mr Phelps says.
"The Minister's intention to reduce allowable GE contamination in canola seed to 0.1% from 2008 is wishful thinking as it encourages GE companies to facilitate more GE contamination," he says.
"Governments must get serious about Australia being GE-free, with rigorous action plans to restore the grain and oilseed industries to GE-free status as soon as possible," he says.
"Strict liability laws are urgently needed to make the GE industry fully responsible for GE contamination and damage," Mr Phelps concludes.
Comment from: Bob Phelps Tel: 03 9347 4500 or 03 9889 1717
3.Organic Farmers Deplore Ministerial Council GM Decision
Media Release, Thursday, 27 October 2005
"We deplore the decision yesterday by Agricultural Ministers to allow GM contaminated canola seed to be planted in 2006 and 2007 at a level of contamination of GM at 0.5% and thereafter at 0.1%," said Mr Scott Kinnear spokesperson today.
"We will have no option but to recommend to our farmers that they do not grow organic canola in Australia from now on. This mirrors the decision taken some years ago by more than 1000 organic canola farmers in Canada who are seeking to sue Bayer and Monsanto for loss of income through a certified class action."
"We proposed that State Governments take three steps to quickly return Australia to its GM free status."
1. Implement an exemption for GM contaminated canola grain to be harvested, stored, transported and sold. This is so farmers are not made the victims. Ministers agreed this to.
2. Require seed companies to guarantee that canola seed planted from 2006 onwards is GM free. This is the best way to quickly return our GM free status. Ministers did not agree this to this.
3. Require seed companies to be liable for the consequences of selling GM contaminated canola seed including compensation for economic harm, cleanup, cost of testing etc. Ministers did not agree to this.
"The seed companies are responsible for this contamination through a failure of their quality assurance processes, at a time when a moratorium is in place, and it is unthinkable to BFA that they have been rewarded for this. Under this decision it is unlikely that organic canola can ever be produced in most States of Australia. Ongoing contamination will also impact greatly on organic food processors who use canola oil."
"We applaud Western Australia and Tasmania's decision to take a tough stance on GM content in seeds and their plans to recover their GM free status. We ask what the other States will say to those farmers who no longer have a choice to be GM free with canola?"
The Biological Farmers of Australia represents and certifies through its subsidiary Australian Certified Organic more than 1500 farmers throughout Australia.
More comment: Scott Kinnear 0419 881 729
BIOLOGICAL FARMERS OF AUSTRALIA CO OP LTD - THE VOICE OF AUSTRALIAN ORGANICS
T: 07 3350 5716 (International +61 7 3350 5716)
F: 07 3350 5996 (International +61 7 3350 5996)