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Stray GM bags found on road

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerCountryman

The GM Free Farmers Group has received a “disappointing” response after writing to Premier Colin Barnett, urging that the GM Crops Free Areas Act 2003 be retained.

Earlier this month the GM Free Farmers group delivered a letter to Mr Barnett signed by 41 conventional and 11 organic farmers, urging the State Government not to repeal the GM Crops Free Areas Act.

GM Free Farmers spokesperson Anne-Marie Copeland said it was disappointing the Premier did not reply.

Instead, the response came from Department of Agriculture and Food executive director Kevin Chennell, who aimed to provide information to clarify the group’s concerns.

“We have an issue with the reply coming from the DAFWA, which is in partnership with Monsanto through the InterGrain business. There is a conflict of interest there,” Mrs Copeland said.

Mrs Copeland said she also rejected claims made in Mr Chennell’s letter, including that the WA grains industry was mature enough to manage the segregation of non-GM and GM grain.

“The GM Crops Free Areas Act 2003 was put in place to specifically look at markets and segregation, and is still important now,” she said.

“It is important because we have already seen canola contamination in other grains at receival points.”

Mrs Copeland said organic Kojonup farmer Steve Marsh’s contamination issue also demonstrated GM grain could not be truly segregated from non-GM plantings.

Meanwhile, GM canola seed bags, containing a small amount of seed, were found blowing along a road in Goomalling shire last week.

Mrs Copeland said finding seed bags along roadsides was not uncommon at this time of year because unsecured empty bags could blow off the backs of utes.

“These bags — for Roundup Ready canola — could result in GM canola contamination of roadside verges and possible non-GM farmers’ paddocks. This is completely irresponsible behaviour by some GM farmers,” she said.

Meanwhile, new Agriculture and Food Minister Dean Nalder has said he supported the repeal of the Act.

He said he was keen to keep it moving but other priorities had taken precedence with the State Government.

He expected it would still be repealed this year.

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