News from Australia
1.Say no to GMO!
2.GM harvest renews calls for labelling
3.Fears hay-cutting will lead to escape of GM canola
4.Risks and Risk Management
** NEW ** Referenced Research document

NOTE: Australia's Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) has released an important new document entitled "GM crops: Risks and Risk Management Required" which is a culmination of a decade of research on the GM issue.

It details the drive behind GM crops in Australia involving corporate control by Monsanto, research alliances and government promotion and the PR tactics involved.

It was launched at the big protest rally - Keep WA GM-Free - held in perth last Thursday (see item 1). More rally details:
1.Say no to GMO!
Annolies Truman, Perth
Australian News, Green Left Weekly issue #773, 5 November 2008

A crowd of 1000 people marched through the Perth CBD to Parliament House on October 30 to tell the Western Australian government to keep the state GMO (genetically modified organism)-free.

The WA Liberal/National government has proposed the commercial production of GM cotton on the Ord River in the state’s north, as well as trials of GM canola.

Farmers marched along St Georges Terrace with their livestock, as placard-waving protesters chanted, “Farmers say no to GMO” and “Keep WA GE-free”.

Outside Parliament House various speakers addressed the rally. Tasmanian environmentalist, Peter Cundall, of Gardening Australia fame, told the gathering GMO was poison and must be opposed. He concluded: “We can win on this one”.

WA Permaculture celebrity, Josh Byrne, told the crowd they had to keep coming back until the government listened and banned GM crops.

When the agriculture minister, Terry Redman, confirmed that the government was going ahead with GM cotton and the canola trials, the crowd responded with a loud “No” and chants.

Rally organisers presented Redman with a petition signed by 27,000 people.
2.GM harvest renews calls for labelling
The West Australian, 3 November 2008

Food safety chiefs are under renewed pressure to toughen labelling standards as farmers in the Eastern States prepare to harvest their first crop of genetically modified canola.

The Conservation Council of WA has warned that the NSW and Victorian canola could be processed and put on supermarket shelves across Australia within months, but shoppers would not be aware they are buying GM food because of inadequate labelling laws.

The harvest comes as WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said he was working out a “pathway” to start commercial GM trials.

Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen said he wanted the State Government to implement a new labelling system for GM products but it had to be supported nationally.

“We’re concerned that GM product from anywhere in the world could end up in the supermarkets,” Mr Verstegen said. “People have to know whether they’re buying GM products or not.”

National food regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand specifies that margarine and other oils made from GM seeds do not need to be labelled because the refining process removes DNA and protein in the seed. However, some health experts have said that oil made from GM crops such as canola or cotton could contain small amounts of engineered DNA and proteins.

Regulations do not require labelling of meat, milk or eggs from animals fed GM material because authorities believe there are no altered components in end products.

However, a scientist hired by the Carpenter government to look at the long-term effects of GM crops on human health, as well as national group Doctors for the Environment Australia, have previously warned that these products could contain engineered DNA and proteins and therefore need to be labelled.

WAFarmers chief executive Andy McMillan said it was likely that consumers were buying GM canola without knowing about it.

“It’s only fair that consumers know if GM canola is in any of the products they are buying,” he said. “The move would have to come from the Government if it’s going to be enforced.”

He doubted any of the Eastern States' GM canola, due to be harvested in coming weeks, would make its way to supermarket shelves. The small crop was more likely to bolster seed supplies for next year’s planting.
3.Fears hay-cutting will lead to escape of GM canola
ABC, 3 November 2008

There are worries that the hay from genetically modified canola may contain seeds that will escape and grow.

A lack of rain has forced some farmers to cut their crops, instead of harvesting for oilseeds.

Fodder dealers may purchase the hay and then sell it to farmers who are unaware where the product came from.

Alex Schaap, general manager of biosecurity at the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, says he didn't expect segregation issues in the first year of GM canola in NSW and Victoria.

"If hay is exported, that hay may carry viable seeds. It would cause problems for maintaining GM freedom," he says.

"It's a bit early to say how much of a problem it will be, but it's something extra for us to look out for at the quarantine barrier."

Monsanto, which developed the GM canola seed, says it tracks the sales of canola hay from farmer to buyer.
4.Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

A Yes/No conflict has been promoted by a well managed public relations campaign in
order to avoid risk management.
Please read the referenced research report "GM Crops: Risks and Risk Management Required"

Risks and Risk Management
** NEW ** Referenced Research document

"GM Crops: Risks and Risk Management Needed" [link for download]

1.1 Executive Summary

Farmers will bear the brunt of the collision between industry with agendas to promote GM to increase profits, against consumers with genuine concerns wanting to avoid GM food. Farmers will also be faced with rapidly increasing costs and reduction of choice due to the change from "public good" plant breeding to "corporate profit" research and development.

GM canola is promoted as a benefit to farmers yet it can be proven to be a potential financial loss with little agronomic gain and far higher costs. The drive stems from multinational corporations, such as Monsanto, manipulating control of seed supplies and food supply. The research industry is trading knowledge and germplasm in exchange for funding and alliances with multinationals, enabling corporate companies to own patents over farmers’ crops.

Competition is currently retained in the food supply because farmers have the choice to buy and sell from their business of choice. If plant breeders have agreements with Monsanto to add a Monsanto gene to all new varieties released, and farmers are required to purchase new seeds every year, all farmers could be locked into being a contract grower for a single supply chain. This would effectively remove all opposition, as no alternative supply chain will be able to access food. What will be the choice and price for food if controlled by a single supply chain?

With government and industry support, the GM industry has been promoting a path to market for GM and have permitted to introduce GM crops under self-management guidelines that reward the GM industry for the problems their product causes. Coexistence plans are based on accepting contamination rather than preventing it, which will remove the promised choice for consumers and farmers.

Increased costs and lower prices for produce due to market restrictions and lack of premiums will leave farmers in an unaffordable funding vacuum that is not sustainable.

Risk management is required and must not be denied.

Risk management and law reform must include:

*Independent performance trials to assess agronomic and economic claims of GM canola;

*Fair risk management to ensure non-GM farmers are not liable for the economic loss caused by GM crops;

*A requirement that a minimum limit of contamination is proven (eg. 90%) prior to deduction of royalties for GM contamination;

*Investigation into any anti-competitive practises adopted by the seed industry;

*A full investigation to the behind-the-scenes corporate alliances and conditions formed with public plant breeders;

*No restriction to be imposed on farmers or gardeners rights to replant non-GM seeds and no restriction of new varieties available in an alternate non-GM form (without an unwanted GM gene).

*Strict liability legislation to ensure the GM Company is liable for containing their product and any economic loss caused by their inability to do so.

*Independent health testing to allay consumer fears or to identify and address any problems found.

*Support for improved GM labelling allowing consumers a choice to avoid GM if desired; and

*Compulsory public registration of GM growers.

It is not unreasonable to insist on the truth and fair risk management to ensure those not wishing to take the risk associated with GM crops are not adversely affected by them.