MP's canola contaminated

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Labor Agricultural Region MLC and Northam farmer Darren West expressed concern in Parliament last week after his truckload of non-GM canola was contaminated by GM canola at the Avon CBH receival point.

Mr West said he had his non-GM canola contaminated at the receival site two weekends ago, meaning he had to deliver it to the GM stack, but still received the non-GM premium at a cost that would be borne by all graingrowers.

Mr West told Parliament he was at his farm two weekends ago wanting to get involved in the work, so he delivered the truck load of non-GM canola to the receival site.

"There are two receival huts. I turned onto the more southern one and had my load of canola sampled and put my little book up explaining everything that was in the back of the truck," he said.

"The sample was taken and when I went into the sample hut I was asked whether the canola was GM or non-GM canola."

Once he said it was non-GM canola, Mr West was told to go to the other side of the road because there were two separate GM and non-GM testing stations.

However, when he went to the other side of the road Mr West was sent back to where he had come from, because one of the samplers had accidently thrown a bucket of GM canola on top of his load of non-GM canola.

Even though Mr West suggested removing the GM canola (which was an easily-identifiable different colour), he was told he would have to tip his load of non-GM canola into the GM stack, because of the zero tolerance for contamination. He was also assured he would still be paid the price for non-GM canola, which currently has a $58 a tonne premium over GM canola.

Mr West said he was surprised by having to deliver his load to the GM pile, but was told it was quite a common occurrence.

"I calculated that the downgrade (cost) of my truckload to the growers of WA was $1334," he said.

"I was also informed that if a truck with two trailers arrived at a CBH receival site, with one trailer containing GM canola and the other trailer containing non-GM canola, both those trailers must be tipped into the GM pile."

Mr West said it was conceded by the CBH staff that thousands if not tens of thousands of tonnes of non-GM canola from across the State were delivered into the GM pile.

"The grower concerned still gets paid the premium for non-GM canola. As anyone who has had anything to do with agriculture knows, farmers pay for everything," he said.

"The loss to the industry, which will be spread across all the farmers, must run into hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Mr West said CBH was totally risk averse to getting any GM seeds in the non-GM canola to protect non-GM markets.

"There is a very real threat we could lose markets as a result of this contamination," he said.

"That was quite alarming to me. I begrudgingly delivered the load of non-GM canola onto the GM stack because one bucket - 5kg in a 23-tonne load of canola - was enough for CBH to wish to segregate that canola into the GM stack."

CBH Kwinana Zone manager Gavin Bignell said the incidence of GM canola contaminating non-GM was very small.

"Very few of our sites receive both GM and non-GM canola, making segregation of the two grades a simple process," he said.

"In the very rare occurrence that contamination is possible, we will take the appropriate measures to make sure that the segregations are protected.

"Stack management and segregations are CBH's responsibility.

"In the rare instance that CBH makes an error in the receival process, we would not financially penalise the grower."

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