Some compromise, please, people

THE GLOVES are off in the GM debate once again, and this time its property rights at stake.

Unsurprisingly, both sides are claiming the moral high ground, and suggesting the other’s unreasonableness is hindering their right to farm.

Although you’d be pessimistic of the chances of it happening, a little compromise and co-existence could take place.

Firstly, the organic lobby needs to realise we live in an imperfect world, and zero tolerance is not possible.

Australia’s peak body for organic farming, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) has imposed draconian restrictions on its members, with zero tolerance to genetically modified material, unlike many other similar bodies internationally, which have provisions for adventitious presence (AP).

Farming does not take place in a vacuum and placing absolutes as guidelines is impractical.

If these rules continue to stand, co-existence between organic farmers and those growing GM canola will be impossible.

Ideally, the Grain Trade Australia industry standard for AP of 0.9pc would be adopted, but even a comprised figure of 0.5pc would give organic growers some room to manoeuvre.

But it is not just the organic industry being inflexible.

The attitude from key GM players, such as Monsanto, to contamination events has simply been that the GM volunteers are easily cleaned up and that farmers are ridiculous to even complain.

Responsibility needs to be taken for the contamination of other peoples’ livelihoods.

If a farmer’s chemical drifted over the fence and caused crop loss, there’d be no question that compensation would be required.

Same goes for inadvertent GM contamination. Farmers who have done nothing wrong shouldn’t be out of pocket to clean up their paddocks, while the same applies to growers producing the GM crops to best industry standards who through no fault of their own have caused contamination.

I nominate Monsanto to be responsible for the stewardship of their Roundup Ready gene. If it is as easy to control as they say, then cleaning up the odd patch of volunteers in neighbouring roadsides or paddocks will be the merest fraction of the fat patent fees it is collecting.

Lastly, we urgently need to develop a better arbitration process. Currently, situations such as the Kojonup contamination can only be resolved through the courts. Not a great way of forging relationships with your neighbours.

Perhaps Grain Trade Australia could set up a division of its successful dispute negotiation program to deal with GM contamination cases and find a sensible resolution without lining the pockets of legal eagles.

Theoretically, there’s no doubt successful co-existence between all grain producers, organic, conventional and GM, could work, but its going to require compromise, and given the hard heads involved on both sides of the argument, you’d have to be a bit pessimistic about workable protocols being thrashed out.

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READER COMMENTS

Lisa
30/05/2011 7:31:53 AM

As a consumer, I don't want ANY GM contamination in my organic produce. My grave concerns about GM crops are what's been pushing me very strongly towards buying organic. I don't think NASAA isn't the peak body for organic farming, either. I think it's just one of the certifying bodies. But good on them for sticking to their principles! Consumers don't want GM, by and large. And if farmers have any sense (and read into the very horrible truth of what GM crops have done in many other countries) they won't want them either.
ggwagga
29/05/2011 2:46:37 PM

Ian & blahblah, the difference with Non-GM is that it does not contaminate GM, or disadvantage neighbours. Where as GM does contaminate all other crops. But that is the intention, contaminate and to hell with the consequences. GM takes away individuals choices. You have to be either totally ignorant, completely naïve or easily influenced by the deceit and corruption that permeates the patenting and registration of GM. GMOs have NEVER been independently tested as safe – NEVER. What part of never don’t you understand? And yet there is an ever increasing plethora of damning research identifying GMOs as toxic to the environment and to consumers. GMOs are neither safe, sustainable or required by intelligent farmers. Unfortunately there are those who are easily deceived by those with a vested interest to profit from the hard work of farmers. Proponents of GM gave the false and misleading assurance that GM would not in any way contaminate – yeah sure, just like being a little bit pregnant! For Gregor Heard to infer that GM can co-exist is a joke and demonstrates his lack of understanding on this issue. GM co-existence is a one way street, leading to contamination and disaster.
Work with Nature Not Across It
28/05/2011 9:29:31 PM

@blahblah : I'm embarrassed, and offended, to be a male when I see such purile, sexist comments as yours about women, and MADGE in particular. (Only a male would make such an inept, mean spirited, uninformed and ignorant attempted slight, I'm sure). You should be proud that mothers (the hardest working and most caring demographic in all of the world's communities) take the time (which they don't have, or haven't you noticed ?) to investigate and challenge what has been shown to be the questionable GM science and all the accompanying bullying tactics and undemocratically imposed agendas - political, economic and ethical - that is forcibly driving it. It's insulting to yourself really, as well, to make such a comment - and it makes your choice of forum name - " blah blah " - seem particularly apt. Life is too short for such nastiness, don't you think ? And the comment carries no useful, or relevant, substance.
Bob Phelps
28/05/2011 8:22:47 PM

Hang on Gregor. NASAA is not the peak body of the Australian organic industry. The Organic Federation of Australia has that role and its certifying affiliates include NASAA. You also ignore Australian organic Standard (AS6000), agreed to by all governments and the organic industry last year. It sets zero tolerance for GM in organics. The ACCC also has zero tolerance for GM when anyone labels a product GM-free. As organic labels imply GM-free any trace of GM could mean being sued for false and misleading labelling. Grain Trade Australia cannot reconcile GM and GM-free over contamination as it is not a disinterested party as members include corporate owners, promoters and backers of GM crop technology. Download the list at: http://www.graintrade.org.au/memb ership The issues of GM contamination and segregation need airing in some fair and fearless forum. Governments decided that the common law and the courts would be used to decide cases of GM contamination. So, a better proposal is for the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund to pay for both sides to to be represented in court, to test the merits of this nationally significant issue as the fund's rules propose.
Harry
26/05/2011 12:25:56 AM

Have you blokes all forgotten that GM canola was a banned substance in WA till just recently and is still banned in many parts of the world? It's only the government that changed in WA. Just lifting the ban without addressing the causes for the ban has done nothing to convince us we should want to eat the stuff. GM canola - an engineered cocktail of spliced bacteria genes from chemical sludge, promoter viruses and antibiotic resistant markers. And you try to tell me that's not contamination? It's designed in! I don't want 0.9pc. I don't want 0.5pc. I want none of it. So just keep your GM crap out of my food completely.
blahblah
25/05/2011 8:47:01 AM

A bunch of stay at home mothers who need some cause to talk about over lattes and danish pastries in order to make them feel busy. It'smore a style thing for groups like MADGE.
Fran Murrell
24/05/2011 2:32:02 PM

Hi Ian and Blahblah Once again I will ask are you the Ian Mott from the IPA - the right wing think tank that has received funding from Monsanto? Also Blahblah who are you? I'm from MADGE a self funded group of volunteers who are mainly mothers. I attended a conference on Co-existence between GM and non-GM crops in Melbourne in 2009. It was clear that GM crops contaminate and pollute and this pollution increases over time. That is why it is important to allow the initial contamination level so it can be increased. The conference called this "harmonisation." The spokesperson from Europe feed manufacturers called GM "a poison pill." The reason that must be excluded GM from organic food is people are buying organic food to avoid GM. GM food has been introduced into our food chain without public knowledge or acceptance, without adequate labelling and without tests that show it is safe to eat.
blahblah
24/05/2011 1:26:24 PM

wasn't the marsh organic crop wheat? So it should be easy to remove it fromt he field.
Ian Mott
23/05/2011 12:39:51 PM

Well, how unusual. A journalist with absolutely nothing at stake wants everyone else to compromise. And over what? No-one actually loses their livelihood from cross pollenation. At worst they get a 4.1% price downgrade. And even that is only because of the totally unacceptable zero tollerance standard. And this continued use of the spray drift analogy only highlights the ignorance of the people using it. The spraying and drifting is part of a single action at a single point in time. Pollen drift is an essential natural ecosystem service that takes place a few months after the act of planting. It is also something that can take place in reverse, with the non-GM pollen being blown the other way. And if it is appropriate for the non-GM people to describe cross pollenation of their crops as "contamination" then the GM farmer has every right to describe the non-GM pollen that ends up in his crop as "contamination" as well. And it would follow that if all legal principles are to be applied equally to all people, as they must, then the GM marketing people would also be free to apply a zero tollerance standard to their product too. "Do unto others ..."
Grain of TruthRural Press grains writer Gregor Heard on the big issues facing the broadacre farmers today.

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