Press Release of the "Network of Concerned Farmers"
Thursday 6th November 2003

GM Trial breach exposed

Wagga Wagga, Australia: The first breach of the NSW GM crop moratorium was revealed today, with canola plants reaching flowering stage in wheat paddocks surrounding a Bayer trial plot.

The breach was revealed in a memo to the NSW Gene Technology Advisory Committee, only two days after the application from Bayer and Monsanto for a 5,000ha release of GM canola in NSW.

National spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers, Julie Newman, was outraged by the revelations, "If the GM industry can't even control a small strictly managed trial plot, how do they expect to control 5,000 hectares of GM canola spread over 60-100 sites throughout NSW?"

The GM canola trial near Wagga Wagga was one of only three small GM canola trials approved by the federal Gene Regulator before the NSW moratorium came into force in June this year. Inspectors from NSW Agriculture found canola plants in a wheat crop within the 400 metre exclusion zone during an inspection of the trial on 19th September.

The trial managers (Bayer Cropscience) attempted to control the plants by spraying, hand-picking and whipper snipping. Almost 4 weeks later, it was obvious that these measures had failed and Bayer Cropscience had to slash the wheat crop in an attempt to prevent the canola plants reaching maturity. The fact that Bayer Cropscience could not control the canola and allowed the canola plants to flower was a clear breach of the trial conditions and invalidates the exemption order under the GM moratorium.

"The obvious difficulty that Bayer Cropscience have had in managing this trial does not inspire confidence within the farming community", Mrs Newman said. "The Australian Wheat Board (AWB) have reported that half of their export wheat markets will not accept any GM canola contamination. It's not good enough to say that some GM contamination is OK."

"The difference with the 5000 ha trial proposal is that control will be the responsibility of the neighbouring farmer. The difficulty in managing the trials shows just how hard it is to remove canola from wheat, and shows how much work neighbouring farmers will have to do to try to make sure their crops don't get contaminated."

"The proposal for "trials" of 5,000ha of GM canola is ludicrous. There is no quarantine requirement, no accountability, and no contingency or contamination cleanup plan. They are proposing 5 metre buffer zones with no requirement to notify neighbouring farms. If this trial goes ahead there will be widespread GM contamination and Bayer Cropscience and Monsanto will be rewarded for it".

"This trial proposal is nothing but a deliberate attempt to irreversibly contaminate the state without accepting liability for the consequences. Farmers are not prepared to give away their non-GM status that easily," Mrs Newman said.

"NSW Ag Minister, Ian MacDonald was elected on his election promise of a 3 year moratorium on GM crops. Is he going to go back on his word and support this?" asked Mrs Newman.