28 November 2007, The Advertiser
Australia: Fury erupts as GM moratorium lifted
CENTRAL Victorian groups opposed to genetically modified crops have reacted with fury to a decision by the State Government to lift its GM moratorium.
As was widely anticipated, Premier John Brumby yesterday announced he would lift the four-year moratorium due to expire in February 29 next year, joining NSW as the first Australian states to allow farmers to grow GM canola commercially.
The decision was greeted by farmers' groups as offering farmers the choice of using technology to make them more competitive.
But anti-GM groups were outspoken in their criticism of the decision.
Bendigo GE-Free Group convenor Gill Rosier said the decision flew in the face of the wishes of regional agricultural businesses.
Last week more than 250 companies sent a petition to Mr Brumby saying that keeping Victoria GM-free was vital to maintaining its clean green reputation.
"If you ask any of our farmers, it is just foolish to be throwing away a marketing advantage against much larger competitors such as Canada and the United States," she said.
US history had shown production increases were marginal, chemical use on GM was short-lived and the only winners were the multi-national companies such as Bayer and Monsanto, which owned the patents for the GM canola varieties.
Ms Rosier said regional groups had not been not properly consulted by the panel, led by Sir Gustav Nossal, which reviewed the ban on GM food crops.
She said that as recently as last Thursday up to 40 state Labor backbenchers had voiced their opposition to lifting the ban.
"We had Minister for Regional Development Jacinta Allan saying on August 22 she would work hard to protect our clean green image overseas," Ms Rosier said.
A spokeswoman for Ms Allan, Jessica Walker, said economic analysis found allowing GM crops would generate up to $115million for the Victorian economy during the next eight years, while the Office of the Gene Technology regulator had found GM canola posed no health or environmental risks.
State Agriculture Minister Joe Helper yesterday argued imported GM products were already available in supermarkets and lifting the ban would give farmers a choice. Victorian Farmers Federation president Simon Ramsay welcomed the decision, saying it would give farmers the choice to take advantage of technology which would increase productivity and reduce chemical and pesticide use.
But farmers such as anti GM-campaigner Geoffrey Carracher, from Minimay in the state's south-west, who last year found high levels of contamination of his canola crop from nearby trial GM sites, have long argued it was impossible to quarantine GM crops because of windborne seeds.
Greater Bendigo councillor Rod Fyffe said a council policy against GM crops formulated in 2002 reflected widespread community concern.
"We are very disappointed at this decision," he said.
"Until the health risks are assessed over a long period, we cannot say conclusively that these products are safe.
"Once it's out, it's out."
However, Springbank Farm marketing manager Chris Dingle said accepting GM crops not only gave farmers a level playing field against international competition, but the need to lift production in the face of a rapidly growing world population made innovation essential.
27th November 2007, Network of Concerned Farmers
GM canola will cause economic loss to canola farmers of over $143 million
The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF), an alliance of Australian farmers, have released a report today on the economic costs of genetically modified (GM) canola, revealing that the introduction of GM canola will cause a loss to Australian canola farmers of over $143 million a year with non-GM farmers carrying an unjust burden of over $65 million a year. NSW Minister for Agriculture announced the lift of the moratorium for GM canola in NSW before it has had official government approval. Premier Brumby of the Victorian Government announced his decision on lifting the GM moratorium at 2pm today. The NCF is calling on the new Federal Minister for Agriculture, and all State politicians to intervene immediately to prevent any decision to lift any State moratoria on GM food crops due to evidence of unreasonable costs on existing farmers.
NCF National Spokesperson Julie Newman said, "economic reports to date on GM crops have included benefits that are not relevent to farmers, excluded additional costs to farmers and ignored the reality that markets are rejecting GM crops. When these factors are integrated, there is a very different picture. The key problem is that non-GM farmers will be burdened with a heavy loss of over $65 million a year for the introduction of a crop we do not want and do not need. Furthermore, non-GM farmers will have little or no legal recourse against the GM industry for this economic loss caused."
The NCF report highlights that since GM adoption, Canada experienced an inability to segregate and suffered price penalties and market rejection associated with marketing as GM. Using similar assumptions both, Australian non-GM and GM canola farmers would conservatively face at least $81.9million less for their canola every year. If 20% of Australian farmers adopted GM canola, the additional costs for GM growers would total $10.83 million without including further additional costs such as volunteer control, resistance management compliance and crop management compliance. While Bayer Cropscience's own yield data shows similar yields to non-GM canola, Roundup Ready canola trials showed an average of 13% less yield than non-GM varieties and therefore, farmers would likely experience a shortfall of a further $50.2 million. A conservative estimate of losses amounts to $143million.
"We insist governments stand by their 2003 committment to ensure unreasonable costs are not imposed on existing producers," said Julie Newman. "Its not good enough for farmers to be told there is no risk when we are expected to pay if our concerns are proven right. There is clear evidence of the risk to non-GM farmers and we should not be expected to bear unjust costs."
"Non-GM farmers should not be forced to subsidise the GM industry," said Mrs Newman.
Mrs Newman, a past vice president of WAFarmers Federation Grains Council, claim farm organisations such as the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) are misrepresenting the majority of farmers with legitimate concerns. She finds it even more disturbing to find that VFF has indirect investments in GM canola via Graincorp and their Nufarm alliance.
If GM canola is introduced, non-GM farmers will be expected to carry the costs and liabilities in keeping GM canola from the non-GM supply. The recent Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) portrayed industry acceptance of coexistence plans but Mrs Newman claimed non-GM farmers were undemocratically represented by ex Monsanto manager Mr David Hudson and that the genuine concerns of non-GM farmers were ignored.
"There is no intention to provide workable coexistence plans and all farmers will be expected to market as GM, a product markets do not want." said Mrs Newman. "The aim of the industries with a vested interest, is to try to convince farmers that GM is in our interests when it is not, and to portray that "industry" has self regulated and agreed to unworkable coexistence plans when this is completely false," she added.
"If introduced, Australia will be the first country to introduce large scale commercial release of a patented GM food crop without subsidising farmers to compensate for higher costs and associated market loss." said Mrs Newman. "This is about industries making money from farmers, not for farmers."