Farmers cautious of GM-free request

18 Jun, 2008 10:22 AM
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WHILE Japanese Consumers Union representatives at the Williams GM forum requested WA growers to stay with conventional canola, some farmers were not so sure it would be in their best interests.

One grower said that with trees displacing growers from the best land, he would need to receive another $300/t to stay as a non-GM canola grower, as that would be the value of the extra yields GM crops provided over other canola.

"The fact is I have never been given the chance to grow the stuff," the grower said.

Another, Andrew Fowler, Esperance, said the GM contamination issue was a beat-up.

Mr Fowler grows Clearfield, triazine-tolerant (TT) and conventional canolas.

He said he and didn't get contamination build ups because the herbicides would wipe out the others.

"As soon as you apply atrazine on Clearfield it dies, I have tried it," he said.

"The same thing will happen with GM varieties."

Network of Concerned Farmers spokeswoman Julie Newman said "triple stacking" of herbicide tolerance was appearing in Canadian GM canola.

The union delegates said they opposed GM food because of potential irreversible impacts on the environment, doubts about the safety of GM food and that seed would be controlled by a few multinational companies.

While there were comments that GM food had been grown around the world for years and nobody's health had been affected so far, union delegate Namiko Ono said more time was needed to decide if GM food was safe.

"We know you will not die immediately or show immediate signs of illness from eating GM food but the problems with these foods is they tend to act on the body over a long time and we have not had enough time to study these effects, that's why we think there are doubtful problems with GM foods over the long term,"

Ms Ono said through an interpreter.

"It is also known the seed developers do not like third party independent testers doing testing on their seed and this kind of thing has been rejected by the developers many times."

She said there had been an incident with GM feed maze which had entered the food chain and had caused a strong allergic reaction.

Ms Newman said GM canola was supposed to be rigorously tested and proved to be safe by Australia's food regulator, Australian Food Standards Australia (FSANZ), but this wasn't the case.

"When canola is crushed half becomes oil for consumers, and that has not been tested at all, while the other half is meal for stock feed and FSANZ has no authority over stock feed, so it is not regulated.

"So when they found things like an increase in animal liver weights of 17pc over a few weeks of feeding it was ignored because FSANZ had no authority over stockfeed.

"The regulatory process was set up under explicit requirements of government to how best to capitalise on their investment in biotechnology.

"It was not set up how best to address consumer issues.

"That's why our state government is funding independent health testing."

Hiroko Akahori, director of the Seikatsu Club Consumers Co-operative, said it had previously imported Canadian canola as raw material for canola oil, but since Canada had become all GM from 1997, the co-op switched to non-GM canola from WA.

"If for some reason Western Australia switches to GM canola, we will unfortunately have no choice but to turn to other countries for our supplies," she said.

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