GM farmers step up protests

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Resistance against genetically modified farming is gathering momentum in light of the possible repeal of the GM Crop-Free Areas Act 2003.

In a rally organised by consumer group Foodwatch, city and country supporters were set to protest outside Parliament yesterday, delivering petitions containing more than 1500 signatures to MLA Chris Tallentire and MLC Lynn MacLaren, for both houses of Parliament.

The WA GM Crops Free Areas Act 2003 was legislated to protect WA's GM free markets.

However, the change of Government in 2008 saw the Barnett Government grant exemptions to the Statewide moratorium to allow GM cotton and canola to be grown from 2009 and 2010 respectively.

The now possible repeal of the Act has also prompted a group of farmers to also join forces in taking a stance against GM grain.

Williams farmer Janette Liddelow said a core group of 15 mostly conventional farmers from across WA have held an informal meeting and formed the GM-Free Farmers group.

The group is now calling for farmers who share their determination to protect the right to farm GM free to join.

Ms Liddelow said the aim of the group was to unite the voices of all WA farmers who were GM-free and demand protection from contamination.

She said the voice of these farmers had not been heard and concerns were unaddressed.

Several of the group's members are leaving their farms mid-harvest to support Foodwatch in the rally.

Ms Liddelow said retention of the Act was essential as it supported management of economic risk and industry preparedness for GM biosafety events.

Both Foodwatch and the farmer group are calling for Agriculture Minister Ken Baston to conduct a proper review of Act, as recommended by the 2009 Calcutt review.

Foodwatch spokeswoman Shirley Collins said it should be an independent review by a parliamentary committee, inclusive of all parties and stakeholders, including consumers and farmers.

Ms Collins said the Government had a duty of care to enact farmer protection legislation to protect GM-free farmers from contamination and protect people's choice to eat GM-free food.

"Our Government can do better than risk WA's international reputation for good, clean, quality food and agriculture," she said.

Ms Liddelow said there should be proven identify, preservation and segregation systems in place and traceability of GM material through the food chain was vital.

Ms Liddelow has herself painted five signs on the approaches to Williams to raise awareness of the need to keep GM-free areas in WA.

The GM-Free Farmers group's website can be found at www.GMfreefarmers.com.au .

Details of the rally can be found at www.facebook.com/gmfreefarmsfood .

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