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Greenpeace activists staging a protest in Bayer´s Australian office (c)Greenpeace/Houspan
(c)Greenpeace/Houspan
(c)Greenpeace/Houspan

14 July 2005, Network of Concerned Farmers (Australia)

Press Release: Farmers slam Bayer Cropscience for contamination

Farmers are outraged at the report that there was 0.01% contamination found in an Australian Barley Board non-GM canola consignment destined for Japan.

"If Bayer Cropscience think that farmers are going to accept losses in markets or additional costs because of these unwanted GM genes, they can think again," said Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers. "Wake up Bayer, it is a major problem for farmers and markets and because there is a moratorium the problem is for Bayer Cropscience to recall the product."

"We don't want liability for a product we do not want and do not need, yet farmers sign guarantees that we have no GM in our produce" she explained. "Liability should be on Bayer Cropscience's shoulders, not on farmers."

"If we can not control contamination coming from across the other side of the world, how on earth can we control it with a 5 metre buffer zone as suggested. Saying that is the fault of United States and Canada due to some imported breeding lines is ludicrous and little more than an excuse that gives others the blame for negligence."

The Australian Oilseeds Federation is pushing for tolerance levels where some "adventitous presence" of GM is allowed in non-GM seed. The ACCC has confirmed that in order to market as "non-GM" or "GM-free" there must be no trace of GM canola in the consignment. Markets and supply chains are demanding guarantees of no trace of GM in many Australian products.

"Setting a tolerance level that does not comply with law and does not comply with market demand is totally negligent" said Mrs Newman.

The Network of Concerned Farmers is asking for immediate legislative protection to ensure farmers can claim compensation if incomes are adversely affected.

"We knew something like this would happen eventually but the test is to see where the liability for this recklessness lies and it had better not rest with the non-GM farmers that do not want this GM product in their crops."

"Bayer Cropscience has no concern for sabotaging Australia's clean, green GM-Free image."
Contact Julie Newman: julie@non-gm-farmers.com

July 21, 2005, AAP

Greenpeace 'contaminates' office

EIGHT Greenpeace activists staged a protest in the office of Bayer CropScience in Melbourne "to show what it's like to have an unwanted presence of contamination".

Greenpeace is demanding the biotech giant take responsibility for a genetic engineering contamination that was revealed in Victoria last week.
"Bayer don't seem to care that their genetically engineered canola has contaminated Australian exports to Japan, so we're here to start holding them accountable," campaigner Jeremy Tager said from outside the building.
"Bayer need to learn that genetic contamination of our food and environment is unacceptable at any level."
To demonstrate the "low level" contamination, Greenpeace said it had one volunteer occupying the Bayer office for every 100 Bayer employees.
The protesters entered the building in suburban Hawthorn about 10am (AEST) and were all believed to have been removed by police before noon.
Comment from Bayer and police was being sought.

14 July 05, The Advertiser

GM contaminated crops found

AUTHORITIES have confirmed the first known contamination of a food crop with genetically modified material in Australia.

The Federal Government has rushed to assure the public about the safety of the canola and the integrity of current moratoria on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food crops.

Opponents say the contamination could have severe consequences for exporters, while Labor says the incident raises serious doubts about the Government's management of the quarantine system.

The GM material was found during routine testing by the Australian Barley Board (ABB) of an export consignment of Victorian canola seeds that was bound for Japan. About 0.01 per cent of the consignment contained the GM material.

The Government's Gene Technology Regulator, Sue Meek, said the modification is known as Topas 19/2 - a variety which provides tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium. Dr Meek said the GM line, developed by Bayer CropScience, was trialled in Australia before the national regulatory system for gene technology came into effect in 2001 but has been found to be safe for people and the environment. GM canola is being trialled in Victoria but its use in commercial food crops is banned under moratoria in that state and every other jurisdiction except Queensland.

Dr Meek said the GM trait had also been found to be safe in Europe, China, the United States, Canada and Japan.

Trials approved by the regulator were not the source of the contamination and authorities were investigating the source of the material. Victorian Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron said the GM trace was likely to have come from a Canadian gene "inadvertently" imported into Australia in conventional seed.

"It's suggested that the material was probably imported in the late 1990s or early 2000 at a time when there was no approval for GM material to be commercially released in Australia," a spokeswoman for the minister said.
Victorian Primary Industry Department deputy secretary Bruce Kefford said the extremely low level of GM canola technically breached the state's moratorium.
But he said there was no suggestion that any offence had been committed because a farmer would have had to knowingly cultivated GM canola.

The ABB, Australia's wheat exporter AWB, and the Victorian Farmers Federation all said they were not concerned about the incident. Bayer CropScience said trace levels of GM material was a reality in agricultural production systems where seeds are exchanged between countries. "Marketers and farmers meet many quality and impurity parameters for their products every day, so GM is just another one," Bayer's BioScience manager Susie O'Neill said. "The marketers have indicated that their ability to meet their international customer and regulatory standards will be unchanged by this finding."

The federal Opposition said the incident raised questions about the quarantine system and how widespread the GM variety had become in Australia's supposedly GM-free commercial canola crops. "Australian canola exports are worth around $400 million annually. When a buyer asks for GM-free Australian canola then that should be what they get," Labor's agriculture spokesman Gavan O'Connor said. A spokeswoman for federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran declined to comment.

The Network of Concerned Farmers, which opposes GMOs for commercial reasons, said the find had the potential to damage Australian export markets which demand canola be GM-free. "We've had enough of the industry lying to us, saying a little bit of contamination is OK," network spokeswoman and West Australian canola exporter Julie Newman said. "Bayer must take responsibility for this."

15jul05, Townsville Bulletin

GM contamination sparks call for total testing

AUSTRALIA'S first food crop contamination with genetically modified material has sparked calls for wide-ranging tests on any food that can be affected.

Authorities yesterday confirmed the first known contamination of canola by genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
A small amount of GM material was found during routine testing by the Australian Barley Board (ABB) of an export consignment of Victorian canola seeds that was bound for Japan.
GM canola is being trialled in Victoria but its use in commercial food crops is banned everywhere but Queensland.
The Federal Government moved quickly to assure the public about the safety of the canola crop and the integrity of a moratorium on the use of GMOs in food crops.
However, GM opponents said the contamination could have severe consequences for exporters.
"How widely the GE contaminated seed may have spread in Australia is unknown and it could now be everywhere," GeneEthics Network director Bob Phelps said.
"So every paddock and shipping container of oilseeds and grains must be tested and any contaminated product destroyed.
"Zero detectable GE contamination must be our standard.
"Australian food exports worth billions of dollars are at risk of temporary even permanent cancellation.
"Australia's GE-free status is a great marketing advantage."
This contamination showed Australia's monitoring systems had failed and may have failed to detect even this incident without Japanese insistence on testing the canola shipment, Mr Phelps said.
The Government's gene technology regulator, Sue Meek, said the canola had been contaminated with Topas 19/2, which provides tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium.
The GM line, developed by Bayer CropScience, was trialled in Australia before the national regulatory system for gene technology came into effect in 2001, Dr Meek said.
The GM trait had been found to be safe in Europe, China, the US, Canada and Japan, Dr Meek said.
Trials approved by the regulator were not the source of the contamination and authorities were investigating its source, she said.
Victorian Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron said the GM trace was likely to have come from a Canadian gene "inadvertently" imported into Australia in conventional seed.
Bayer CropScience said trace levels of GM material was a reality in agricultural production systems where seeds were exchanged between countries.
The Opposition said the incident raised questions about the quarantine system and how widespread the GM variety had become in Australia's supposedly GM-free commercial canola crops.
The Network of Concerned Farmers, who oppose GMOs for commercial reasons, said the find had the potential to damage Australian export markets that demanded canola be GM-free.
The GeneEthics Network is a not-for-profit group lobbying to keep genetically modified crops out of Australia.