Network of Concerned Farmers (Australia) Media Release, 23 June 2003

Bayer refuses to accept liability for its GM crops

The Network of Concerned Farmers (Australia) have expressed disappointment that Bayer Cropscience has indicated they have no intention to accept costs and liabilities for the control of their product. Bayer Cropscience refused a request to withdraw their license application for genetically modified canola until this issue was resolved.

"If Bayer CropScience was so confident that there will be no problem with their product, they would not be objecting to accepting the cost and liability for the control of it." said Julie Newman NFC spokesperson and WA farmer.

"We are faced with a situation where the GM industry is not prepared to bear the costs and liabilities associated with introduction and control of the GM product and have drafted management plans to put this responsibility on to non-GM growers. Non-GM growers are certainly not prepared to subsidise companies such as Bayer Cropscience and Monsanto; these companies make this product and they must be totally responsible for it."

"On release, Australia will lose its non-GM status And it will be extremely expensive for non-GM growers to verify a crop as non-GM. Non-GM growers must not be forced to market as GM due to these excessive costs and liabilities. Non-GM is a preferred market and the GM industry must not be allowed to deprive us of our chosen markets."

"We can only co-exist if we maintain our national non-GM status and ensure the GM industry is 100% responsible for total containment of the GM canola and all associated costs and liabilities. This must include containerising on farm, a strict testing regime for neighbouring crops, serious fines for non-compliance and a contingency fund for compensation." "If the company will not accept responsibility for its product, it's time the Government imposed legislation to ensure they do."

The Network of Concerned Farmers tabled the following letter:

Susie O'Neill
General Manager, BioScience
Bayer CropScience Pty Ltd
391 Tooronga Rd

12th June, 2003

Re: Request to withdraw license application for Invigor Canola

Dear Susie,
As Bayer Cropscience is well aware, there are many unresolved issues still in dispute regarding the practicalities for commercial release of Invigor Canola.

Unfortunately the Federal legislation may allow the OGTR to approve the commercial release of Invigor Canola prior to the appropriate State legislations being in place and prior to the agricultural industry being prepared and able to manage these crops. It is imperative that no sector of industry should be faced with unmanageable problems with the introduction of any new crop.

Contamination of non-GM seed by GM crops is considered uncontrollable and yet it appears the cost and liability for controlling contamination has been allocated to the non-GM growers.
As a network representing non-GM growers, we refuse to accept any costs or liabilities for attempting to control the contamination of a GM crop we do not want.

We therefore insist that, in accordance with normal business practise, Bayer Cropscience accept the costs and liabilities for the control of their product.

If Bayer Cropscience refuse to accept this, we consider the release of Bayer Cropscience Invigor Canola should not progress until there is a party willing to accept these costs and liabilities.

The Network of Concerned Farmers hereby requests that Bayer Cropscience temporarily withdraw the application to the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator for license of Invigor Canola until these serious issues are resolved.

As the Regulator is expected to make a final decision within weeks, we consider it a matter of urgency that you make your decision public within 7 days.

Yours faithfully,

Julie Newman, Network of Concerned Farmers
( )

19 June, 2003 Update:
Bayer Cropscience have responded to our letter and although the details of the letter were marked confidential, they have responded with the following press release on 20, June 2003:

Bayer Cropscience has responded in writing to the Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) request to withdraw InVigor hybrid canola from the regulatory process of the Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR).

The NCF presented a letter demanding the withdrawal of the InVigor hybrid canola submission at the end of a Canberra meeting arranged by Bayer CropScience last week. A joint communique was issued at the end of the meeting signifying constructive discussions and a willingness to continue dialogue.

In the response, Ms Susie O'Neill stated that Bayer CropScience was unable to withdraw the application for commercial release of InVigor hybrid canola for a number of reasons including maintaining good faith and trust in the federal regulatory system for GM crops.

Ms O'Neill said "To withdraw our licence at this time would show a lack of confidence in both our product and in the OGTR, neither of which we would see as being warranted."

"Bayer CropScience strongly disagrees with the Network's assertion that "contamination" is "considered uncontrollable". Whilst we respect this partisan position, it is clearly contrary to the vast body of scientific evidence, trial outcomes and experience, said Ms O'Neill.

Bayer CropScience noted that the NCF's greater concern lies with issues of liability which Bayer believes can be addressed through the avenues governed by contracts and common law.

"Thresholds and stewardship programs for GM and non GM crops also effectively deal with liabilities, Ms O'Neill explained.

"Thresholds and tolerances, for example, for weed seeds and pesticide residues are standard practice for non-GM crops produced today to meet marketing specifications. Whilst further clarification of GM threshold levels in non-GM grain, consistent with global trade requirements are progressing, Australia's major export markets for canola all accept GM grain today.

"Through grower training programs on InVigor hybrid canola and the coexistence principles developed by industry, farmers will be able to produce the crops of their choice without impacting on each others farming system.

Ms O'Neill also explained that OGTR approval for InVigor hybrid canola, should it proceed, is not the end of the issue for commercialisation as various State Governments have, or are considering, introducing moratoriums. "Whilst Bayer CropScience does not see the need for moratoroiums to be introduced in Australia, we are committed to working with State Governments to ensure they have confidence in markets and trade, before moving ahead", she said.

Bayer CropScience announced last week that no commercialisation would occur in Australia in 2003, but trial programs would continue, as they had for a number of years. Bayer CropScience thanked the NCF for their letter and welcomed the opportunity to engage with all groups in this debate.

Further information regarding Bayers reply:
Markets: Using a 5 year averages from 97-01, our largest customer China (37%) has not yet approved GM canola and its tightened regulation requires a guarantee of the product to health and the environment. When even the American FDA will not guarantee this, will our marketers sign such a deal? Japan (29%) have expressed preference for non-GM and European Union (13%) are rejecting GM's. Both China and EU propose to introduce labelling of oils which will have a serious impact on markets as retailers will be reluctant to stock GM. It should not be up to the GM industry to make decisions restricting non-GM growers rights to market on the preferred non-GM market.

Cost: Why should farmers who wish to market on the non-GM growers be expected to be responsible for paying an estimated 10 - 20% of the product value to provide the necessary segregation, identity preservation and traceability system required?

Liability: Contracts in use, lack of established thresholds, the Trade Practises Act and the proposed stewardship programs clearly indicate that if a product is guaranteed as non-GM, it must contain no GM product and if it does, the non-GM grower will be liable for that contamination. Bayer may consider this acceptable but non-GM growers do not.

Contamination uncontrollable?: The segregated certified non-GM seed in Canada has been tested and 95% of samples found to be contaminated with over half above certification standards. Some growers are using 2km buffer zones which makes a mockery of the Australian 5 metre buffer zone proposal (or 400 metres for certified seed).

In the well publicised case of Monsanto vs Schmeisser (March 2001) Judge MacKay concluded while considering an injunction "(130). to restrain the growing of Roundup Ready canola, would be impossible to comply with in light of the uncontrollable spread of the patented gene."

Canadian Experience: The Canadian Farmers Union is calling "for governments to hold genetic modification companies accountable for the costs their products create for other farmers and the general public."

Network of Concerned Farmers (Australia) Media Release, , 23 June 2003