Surge in GM canola crops predicted

Georgia LoneyCountryman

A surge in genetically modified canola crops in WA is predicted this year, with a Government audit released yesterday finding no evidence the State’s GM canola farmers breached licence conditions.

The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) audit of 53 of the State’s 314 GM canola farmers found the farmers stuck to rules aimed to help separate GM and non-GM canola.

GM canola seed company Monsanto estimated GM canola crops would surge from about 70,000 hectares to 100,000ha in WA this year.

But the audit has been dismissed as a whitewash by anti-GM groups, which cite the example of Kojonup farmer Steve Marsh, who lost organic accreditation for part of his wheat and oats farm after finding GM canola plants on his property.

Mr Marsh alleged GM canola seeds were blown on to the farm from his neighbour’s property.

The DAFWA report said the aim of the audit program was to assess the compliance of GM canola growers with their licence and stewardship agreement.

The audit acknowledged Mr Marsh had lost organic accreditation on part of his farm “due to the accidental presence of GM plant material”.

But this was because of a clash between GM-crop and organic-crop production systems, rather than a failure to segregate GM and non-GM canola crops, the audit stated.

Network of Concerned Farmers national spokeswoman Julie Newman dismissed the audit and claimed the agriculture department was under pressure from Monsanto.

“They are saying Mr Marsh doesn’t grow canola, he grows wheat, but you do not grow any GM product on the farm,” she said.

“Monsanto made rules that don’t work and the agriculture department is supporting them.”

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said the audit showed farmers were aware of the requirement to segregate GM and non-GM canola along the supply chain.

He said the decision to grow GM canola would ultimately be determined by farmers.

“The industry will decide on the continued growing of GM canola according to individual farm businesses,” he said.

Mr Redman said the department had written to certified organic and biodynamic growers asking for their participation in a register of sensitive sites. “The department will establish this sensitive sites register for use by growers in 2011,” he said.

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