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8-Misc: Australian government starts investigation of all AventisÔ GE canola test sites

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----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------

TITLE:  GM breach leads to canola investigation
SOURCE: The Age, Australia, by Geoff Strong
DATE:   August 23, 2000

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GM breach leads to canola investigation

All experimental sites of genetically modified canola from the 
multinational company Aventis are to be investigated by federal 
officials after revelations about its alleged breaches of guidelines 
at Mt Gambier this year. The government's Interim Office of the Gene 
Technology Regulator yesterday confirmed it would audit the Aventis 
sites after more breaches were found in a check late last month. It 
will also audit all the company's paperwork associated with its 
canola program. A spokeswoman for the office said it had been further 
alarmed by the company's submission to a Senate inquiry, dismissing 
the breaches as not serious and mere differences in scientific 

An adverse finding could result in the French-owned company losing 
its permit for canola trials, which it runs on about 70 sites across 
Australia. The aims of the trials are to develop a new strain of 
herbicide-resistant hybrid canola and to produce seed for export to 
North America. But at the Senate inquiry into gene technology 
legislation, which met in Adelaide yesterday, Aventis representatives 
alleged that a related government body had known for years about 
similar breaches but took no action until revelations were made in 
the media.

A consultant for the company, George Brownbill, read out an extract 
from a 1998 letter from the company to the government's Genetic 
Manipulation Advisory Committee in which it says the company did not 
intend to comply with requirements for a 15-metre buffer around a GM 
canola crop.

In late March The Age revealed that GM material from an Aventis site 
near Mt Gambier had been dumped unburied at an open tip and that 
sexually compatible weed species were growing nearby. At the time the 
company denied any breaches and a report by the Interim Office of the 
Gene Technology Regulator indicated nothing of significance had 
happened. But it is believed that federal Health Minister Michael 
Wooldridge intervened, demanding a more thorough investigation. The 
results were released by the Senate inquiry yesterday and revealed 
that Aventis had breached five guidelines at Mt Gambier.

The breaches included the two revealed by The Age, plus lack of a 15-
metre buffer, failure to monitor for GM canola regrowth and failure 
to safely transport seed to and from the site. Aventis spokeswoman 
Naomi Stevens said yesterday that the company was not concerned by 
the proposed audit of its sites. But the Federal Opposition's GM 
spokesman Alan Griffin said it was inadequate just to monitor the 
Aventis site and all GM trials in Australia should be monitored. He 
said the allegation that GMAC knew about the breaches and failed to 
investigate them meant the government watchdog should be investigated 
as well.


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