GM coexistence a myth
EXTRACTS: "The preparation process excluded non-GM farmers from the consultation process and our views were supposedly presented by ex Monsanto manager Mr Hudson." - Julie Newman, Network of Concerned Farmers
"There is no place anywhere in the world where co-existence of GM and conventional canola has been achieved. In Canada, they did not even try to achieve coexistence. They did in the US but had to abandon their attempts after just one year. In Canada it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to even source uncontaminated non-GM canola seed for sowing. I have no confidence whatsoever that coexistence of GM and non-GM canola is achievable in Australia or anywhere else in the world." - Kim Chance, Minister for Agriculture Western Australia
Press Release: Network of Concerned Farmers
13th June, 2008
GM Coexistence plans a failure
For the first time in Australia, the GRDC funded GM canola coexistence protocols were explained to around 120 farmers in Williams, WA [Western Australia] last night. Participants soon became aware that supplying non-GM markets for market specification is not a viable option if GM crops are commercially released under these existing protocols that have been widely endorsed by farming groups and industry participants. There was outrage in the audience as farmers became aware of the impositions imposed on non-GM farmers and disgust that industry had endorsed the protocols without consideration for farmers wishing to provide a GM-free choice for consumers.
"The protocols are a farce," said Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers. "They only exempt all sectors from liability by placing all the costs, responsibilities and liabilities onto non-GM farmers for every operation from seed production to storage to delivery. The final product can not possibly meet the market specifications for non-GM products. Both consumer and farmer choice will be denied."
"The reason the protocols have not been explained to farmers before is because the industry players who endorsed the protocols are trying to convince decision makers that the promised choice will be provided rather than actually providing workable protocols. The moratoria in NSW and Victoria has been lifted under the deception that these plans provide choice when they can not."
The hypothetical, convened by former ABC Country Hour manager, worked through the steps of the coexistence protocols in order to provide a GM-free product for market, involving a panel discussion and audience participation. The panel included the Japanese Consumers Union representing consumers and markets requiring a GM-free product (hosted by Maggie Lillith from the Conservation Council), Rob Sewell (Former chair of the GRDC coexistence supply chain committee formulating the protocols and former chair of CBH), WA Farmers Grains Council President Derek Clauson (signatory of the protocols on behalf of WA Farmers) and Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers representing the non-GM farmers. The audience involved supply chain participants with vocal interaction between farmers wishing to grow GM and non-GM crops.
"While market requirements require a guarantee of no GM contamination, if the protocols were followed, the produce sold would be either classified as not known to be over 9%, not known to be grown from GM varieties or that tests done have shown GM content under 0.9% but no guarantee is given. It was clear that the protocols failed on all counts to comply with the coexistence aims that promise to maintain or enhance trade in Australian canola, enable market choice along the supply chain, be open and transparent and provide confidence to all stakeholders, particularly to customers, consumers and governments," explained Mrs Newman.
"The preparation process excluded non-GM farmers from the consultation process and our views were supposedly presented by ex Monsanto manager Mr Hudson."
The first industry notification that non-GM farmers were expected to alter their farming practise was a small paragraph in the latest GRDC Groundcover article titled "Strict Protocols Guide Crop Production":
"Executive director of the Australian Oilseeds Federation Rosemary Richards says that growers wanting to market their grain as non-GM must ensure the status of their seed prior to planting. Also, the grower will need to demonstate traceability through the supply chain. This could involve procedures such as vendor declaration, monitoring contractors and delivery to storage in compliance with customer requirements."
This notification came too late to comply for non-GM farmers in Victoria and New South Wales as farmers had already completed seeding canola.
A written comment from Kim Chance, Minister for Agriculture WA concluded the hypothetical:
"There is no place anywhere in the world where co-existence of GM and convention canola has been achieved. In Canada, they did not even try to achieve coexistence. They did in the US but had to abandon their attempts after just one year. In Canada it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to even source uncontaminated non-GM canola seed for sowing. I have no confidence whatsoever that coexistence of GM and non-GM canola is achievable in Australia or anywhere else in the world.
In addition, no-one has ever shown the State Government how the cost of preserving the identity of non-GM canola is not going to be shifted , at least in part, to existing non-GM canola growers. The State Government is concerned that the adaption GM canola will only impose new costs and market restrictions at the expense of non-GM canola growers and grain farmers as they try to maintain their highly valued and regarded GM free status in domestic and international markets. The Government has always maintained that any additional costs arising from the introduction of GMOs should be borne by those using the technology, but in this instance it is clearly the non-GM farmer that will need to meet the costs of identity preservation under the industry's so called co-existence framework. "
"This was an important opportunity for farmers to germinate seeds of thought of how we can live together with GM and non-GM and if it is possible, as communities don't want to be fighting with each other. This hypothetical will hopefully have farmers thinking and talking about possible options for the future." Rose Crane (convenor) Phone 0447900975 or 08 96371111.
"Farmers basically came believing that coexistence would be extremely difficult but left the meeting knowing that it was not possible." Janette Liddelow (Organiser) Williams 08 98851138.
"Co-existence has not worked anywhere else in the world and we can't take the risk here in WA. Tonight is a positive step in raising awareness of this difficult issue." Maggie Lillith, Conservation Council (Host for Japanese Consumers Union) 0412836777
Comments from both pro and anti-GM farmers within the audience:
"The coexistence principles are a joke. Who will be liable when they fail and non-GM farmers and consumers suffer damage. I doubt that the current batch of so-called farming industry leaders who are supporting GM will be putting up their hands." William Newton-Wordsworthe, Williams 08 98851181
"Coexistence protocols are a marriage made in hell" Ray Harrington, Darkan Ph 97363004
"Coexistence is clearly impossible. Wind and bees will spread contamination over many kilometres." Des O'Connell, Duranillin Ph 98631055
"The protocols can't keep GM and non-GM separate." Richard Johnstone Ph 0407385938
"If tolerance of GM at 0.9% with no guarantee is acceptable to markets, then the principles could work but if not, it won't work." John Bostock, Pingelly 98877043
"I can't see how coexistence has got any chance of working whatsoever. GM growers are to get the supposed benefit while non-GM growers get all the cost. No GM." Duncan South, Darkan.
"Practically, co-existence is a myth, however well intended." Vin Caine Williams.
Julie Newman 08 98711562