Labor GM threat rejected

Rueben HaleCountryman
Meckering GM canola grower Rob Beard.
Camera IconMeckering GM canola grower Rob Beard. Credit: Rueben Hale

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association has accused Labor of “disingenuous trickery” after shadow agriculture minister Mick Murray called for substantial fines for GM growers if their crops contaminate others.

Last week, Mr Murray said it was time for the party to be practical about the future of GM technology in WA, and look at ways for GM and non-GM crops to co-exist, rather than becoming GM-free.

He warned that Labor would protect farmers wanting to be GM-free by imposing substantial fines on farmers found to have contaminated another farmer’s land with GM crops.

PGA Western Grain Growers committee chairman Gary McGill said Labor had resorted to scaremongering tactics against law-abiding farmers to enforce their political will.

“Labor have announced this approach, hoping the farmer will become scared to grow GM crops,” he said.

“Many farmers are concerned about Labor’s new policy position on imposing an onerous and libellous legislative framework on growing GM crops in Western Australia.

“I say it is disingenuous trickery because Labor have resorted to trying to change a legal and lawful practice of growing GM on the basis of non-scientific anti-GM rumblings from Labor’s mainly urban constituency.

“It is disgraceful they are putting the party’s political self-serving agenda ahead of what is best for the State. This is not a responsible approach by a party that wants to be elected to government.”

Mr McGill said farmers concerned about growing GM under a Labor government should look to the experience of Kojonup GM grower Michael Baxter.

“Mr Baxter was persecuted by his neighbour and just about every other group operating under a Green umbrella in this State,” he said.

“He was clearly shaken at the time by the threats, but had the courage to stand up for himself and fight those who had accused him of doing something wrong by legally growing GM and he eventually was vindicated.”

Meckering GM canola grower Rob Beard said he would not be intimidated into moving away from growing GM canola because of tightened regulations. Mr Beard grows about 300ha of GM canola among conventional canola and a range of other cereal crops.

He said without GM technology he would struggle to control weeds and be without an effective tool to set up his crop rotations.

“Recent decisions in the High Court of Australia have moved away from recognising strict liability, as part of Australian common law,” Mr Beard said.

“It could end up in court, but as a GM farmer I’m not concerned about that at all.

“I want to see GM science progressing, so we can start to measure the benefits of other GM crops in the future.

“In Western Australia it is essential that we support the development of crops that have drought, frost and salinity tolerance and we don’t want governments and politicians interfering in that science advancement process, which has happened in the past.

“If the Labor party’s motive is to put fear into farmers and also fear into the scientists, so that science cannot progress, then it just sets us back to the stage where the policy is regressive.”

Meanwhile, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has told Countryman that her party would not support the growing of GM crops in Western Australia.

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