WA’S first broad-scale field trial of Genetically Modified (GM) canola has been placed on hold after becoming entangled in a political battle between the State Government and the seed companies that own the technology.
State Agriculture Minister Kim Chance advised his Ministerial GMO Reference Group meeting last Friday that the GM trials, scheduled for Esperance next year, were now in grave danger of not going ahead.
Mr Chance confirmed that the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA), which he approved the trials for earlier this month, had hit a brick wall in its attempts to source GM seed from Monsanto and Bayer, the companies who own the plant breeding rights to the controversial technology.
Network of Concerned Farmers WA spokesperson Julie Newman said the lack of seed availability was an admission from GM crop supporters that the Esperance trials would reveal GM canola offered nothing better than the varieties already used by WA growers.
“At last those pushing GM crops have admitted that GM canola cannot out-perform the canola we already grow,” Ms Newman said.
“And the GM companies are obviously afraid that the truth would be revealed with independence performance trials.
“It is obvious that those pushing GM crops would prefer that farmers rely on misleading hype because farmers would not be supporting GM crops if they knew the facts.”
Ms Newman said the GM companies’ reluctance to provide seed for the trials would now raise serious doubts from those farmers and farming groups who were hoping that the SEPWA trials would provide clear and independent evidence that GM performed better than conventional varieties.
She said there was now also serious concern among the farming community that the GM issue was becoming nothing more than a political tool.
SEPWA vice president Andrew Fowler said the indications from Monsanto and Bayer were that they did not see the up-side to releasing the GM seed for the trial.
Mr Fowler said the companies saw little value in investing in WA, and envisioned that they would soon see commercial action in NSW, Victoria and maybe NSW, if the moratoria on GM commercial crop production were lifted, as soon as next year.
Those states recently announced a review of their bans, while Tasmania joined in earlier this month announcing it would also conduct a review.
WA’s moratorium runs for the term of government and is expected to be reviewed late next year or in early 2009.