Additional GM tests ruled out

Kate MatthewsCountryman
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The Department of Agriculture and Food has ruled out further testing at a Cunderdin farm despite claims of GM canola contamination.

In mid-November, Ian and Jodie James raised the alarm that GM canola from a neighbouring farm had been washed onto their property after a hail storm and heavy rain.

DAFWA visited both properties and tested planted and seed samples from road sides and paddocks with the owners involved in plant selection.

A DAFWA spokesman said that while GM material on the property could not be ruled out, DAFWA's test results were negative apart from one positive sample on the road side near their property.

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While GM canola can be legally grown in WA, it's the responsibility of the grower to undertake testing.

In the James' case, DAFWA undertook testing because of the unusual weather and claims a large amount of seed had possibly moved.

"Department testing indicated that large seed movements did not appear to have occurred and therefore will not be conducting further testing at the property," the spokesman said.

Jodie James told _Countryman _ they had been trying to map out the contamination area and had a box of 100 test strips provided by Greenpeace to use.

On Saturday, Mrs James said 35 tests were conducted and 13 from the road side, verge and drain, as well as three in the paddock, were positive.

Further testing on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday showed more contamination and in the end Mrs James said it was easy to visually differentiate between GM canola seed, which was darker and bigger than non-GM seed.

Mr James said they had ruled out taking legal action against their neighbour and would like to work out a clean-up strategy.

But from next year, Mr James said they would grow canola again, saying it was too hard to stop contamination.

"In 10 years time, it's been reported, and I believe, we won't be able to grow non-GM canola with confidence because it will be contaminated to the extent it will be classified as GM canola," he said.

On Monday night, more than 20 farmers in Cunderdin turned out for a community meeting to discuss the need for farmer protection laws in case of contamination.

Speakers included Labor agriculture spokesman Mick Murray and Nationals agriculture region MLC Philip Gardiner.

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