1.Fears trial threatens GM-free canola - Oz
2.Farmers frustrated by GM contamination - NZ
3.Deliberate GM contamination in NSW - Oz
The New Zealand Herald (item 2) reports that, "Farmers are 'frustrated' by news that a big maize consignment has been contaminated by genetically modified (GM) material, endangering export markets."
In the latest contamination scandal in Australia (items 1 and 3), GrainCorp has now admitted* that it sold on commercially the GM contaminated grain to a farmer, even though there is a section in the relevant New South Wales Act that specifically prohibits this. (item 3)
The Network of Concerned Farmers, who blew the whistle on the whole affair, point out that it shows just how vulnerable farmers are to sabotage of Australia's GM-free image. They also wonder whether it might help to explain how the recent contamination scandal in Victoria, affecting Australia's canola exports, occurred. (item 3)
1.Fears trial threatens GM-free canola
ABC - Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 28 July 2005
There is a claim Australia's status as a producer of genetically modified (GM) free canola has been jeopardised by trial work in New South Wales.
The Network of Concerned Farmers says GM canola was added to 10 truckloads of conventional crop as part of a CSIRO trial to evaluate testing regimes.
The network's Juliet McFarlane, who is on the NSW GM Advisory Committee, says she was not advised of the trial and she has questions she wants answered.
"GrainCorp is saying that they have sold it privately in Australia, but it's not clear whether it's gone to a crusher or straight to a stock feeder," she said.
"But we need to know exactly if that feed is still viable and is it out there growing somewhere, is somebody keeping an eye on it? It's certainly a possible source of future contamination...wherever it is."
GrainCorp says strict protocols were followed and the canola has been sold for feed.
A spokeswoman for NSW Primary Industry Minister Ian MacDonald says the CSIRO-led trial does not breach legislation.
The CSIRO has yet to comment.
Ms McFarlane says there should be a more open approach to testing such as this.
"There needs to be a lot more transparency, growers need to be assured that their best interests are looked after, so do marketers, that's why we have a moratorium in NSW and if you keep things secret then it's much harder for people to have confidence in the outcomes," she said.
2.Farmers frustrated by GM contamination
New Zealand Herald, 28 July 2005
Farmers are "frustrated" by news that a big maize consignment has been contaminated by genetically modified (GM) material, endangering export markets.
Around 13,500 tonnes of maize -- all from one region -- may have to be dumped, after routine testing revealed the presence of GM contamination.
This is believed to be the sixth such incident in the past three years.
Federated Farmers' spokesman Hugh Ritchie said while tests were supposed to pick up GM seed in imported seed, no test was 100 per cent accurate.
"There's only a 0.05 per cent of something getting through but the eventuality does exist," he told National Radio this morning.
He said it was "unlikely" that the incident was related to the last major contamination 13 months ago, when nearly 4000 tonnes of corn grown in Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Waikato and Northland was found to have traces of GM material.
The problem facing growers was the maize industry relied on hybrid grain lines and it was necessary to continually import new genetic material, he said.
"We can't test every single seed because then we would have no seed to plant -- so we have to test small samples."
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) officials face a daunting task in tracking down the source of the contamination, as the seed came from a complex mix of seed lines and growers.
Mr Ritchie said "in hindsight", it would have worked better to test consignments from individual properties before mixing them up.
However, testing in terms of imports and seed planted was already "very rigorous" and had been strengthened since the last incident.
"You have to go with the processes in place and believe that that process is giving farmers protection," he said.
"But having said that it's very frustrating because farmers and seed producers are trying their utmost to provide seeds at zero tolerance."
He said it was hoped the seed would not have to be dumped, but its use would have to be "very carefully monitored" so as not to put any markets at risk.
MAF eradication programmes manager Ian Gear said it was expected to take at least three weeks to complete the investigation into the contamination because of the complexity of the situation.
3. Deliberate GM contamination in NSW
Press Release: For immediate release
Network of Concerned Farmers
The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) have revealed evidence of GM canola contamination in New South Wales. The Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) funded research undertaken by CSIRO that involved deliberately contaminating 140 tonne of non-GM canola with GM canola.
"GM canola is meant to be banned because of the risk to our industry but it was deliberately bought into New South Wales and added to our non-GM canola," explained Juliet McFarlane, NCF spokesperson and farmer from Young.
CSIRO were contaminating a series of 10 tonne truckloads of conventional canola with both 0.5% and 2% levels of GM canola sourced from Bayer Cropscience to assess testing regimes. The contaminated seed was handled by Graincorp who sold it to an unnamed buyer somewhere in Australia.
"Where did the GM seed come from and where did the 140 tonne of contaminated canola end up?" she asked.
"Whilst we have assurance from Graincorp that strict protocols were adhered to during transport, we have no idea how the GM has been treated after delivery. Was is crushed, were all the seeds destroyed or could there be GM canola growing on a farm somewhere?"
"The NCF accept that trials of this nature must take place, and are indeed a priority, but we do not accept the secrecy and the lack of transparency. This is our industry and our crop and until moratorims are lifted, there is an expectation that there is both respect and protection of both our industry and our livelihoods. "
It is not yet known if the NSW State Government knew about this trial and was a party to the disposal of the GM canola.
"Both participants, the CSIRO and the Graincorp have a vested interest in the uptake of GM technology and should not have the freedom to do what they like with our GM-free status," said Mrs McFarlane.
Although Federal governments have released GM canola based on health and environmental assessment, State governments have banned GM canola as they have the authority to assess economics and markets and have identified a risk. There is a section in the NSW Act that prevents canola being grown in NSW and then being onsold for commercial gain. Mrs McFarlane is also a member of the NSW Advisory Council advising the Minister on GM related issues.
"Did the State government give permission for this and why wasn't the Advisory Council told?" she asked.
"If this canola has been grown in Australia in the trial areas in other states, the Federal government has deliberately broken a State law. If this canola has been imported, it shows how vulnerable farmers are to sabotage of Australia's GM-free image and could explain how the contamination in Victoria occurred."
Contact: Juliet McFarlane 02 638 22509