PGA rallies GM support

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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The Pastoralists and Graziers Association plans to host a series of crisis meetings throughout the Wheatbelt aimed at rallying support for the defence of genetically modified farming systems.

PGA Grains Section president John Snooke said the farm lobby group would, in late 2015 and early 2016, organise the meetings, inviting members and unrepresented growers, in a bid to gather support for the retention of GM crops.

He said the PGA's primary concern was that Labor would ban GM farming if it won the next State election.

"In private meetings, the Labor Government has been absolutely adamant, no matter what evidence is presented, that GM farming would be banned," he said.

"So we will be encouraging everyone to come along, whether members or not, to discuss what the industry can and can't do going forward.

Mr Snooke said PGA held a similar course of meetings when Labor banned live export back in 2011, achieving massive attendance.

"Even though Labor has locked itself into a position on GM, we really want to motivate farmers that individually their voices count," he said.

"The idea is to let the Labor Party, and people in the city know that we need this technology, that it works and it's safe, and that the Labor Party's policy lacks scientific rigour."

Mr Snooke said the plan and schedule would be fine-tuned at the PGA executive and grains committee meetings later this week.

However, he said it was likely the meetings would initially follow a similar format to that of the PGA's "Future of Farming" meetings that were held each year to provide information about GM technologies.

"So we are contemplating more of those this year. But as we draw closer to the State election, if Labor hasn't changed their anti-GM stance, then we will host more of those meetings and change them to crisis-type events," he said.

PGA is well known for its pro-GM stance, supporting Kojonup GM farmer Mike Baxter who was sued by neighbouring organic grower Steve Marshall after GM canola contaminated his property in 2010, causing Mr Marsh to lose his organic certification.

Mr Marsh lost that case but an appeal is currently being heard in the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Ken Baston has given notice that he plans to repeal the GM Crops Free Areas Act this year.

Foodwatch spokeswoman Shirley Collins said the Act should be retained and that State Government's strategy was reckless.

She said Mr Marsh's GM contamination incident was proof that the promise to keep GM segregated was unachievable, referencing the flurry of applications to allow a level for GM tolerance in certified organic systems.

She cited the Grain Industry Association of WA's recent submission to the Organic Industry Association Certification Council to have a 0.9 per cent GM tolerance level, in keeping with European standards.

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