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9-Misc: Monsanto urges Australian farms to lobby for GM crops

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TITLE:  Monsanto urges farms to lobby for GM crops
SOURCE: Sidney Morning Herald, Australia, by Stephanie Peatling
DATE:   July 15 2002

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Monsanto urges farms to lobby for GM crops

The chemical giant Monsanto has written to more than a thousand Australian 
farmers asking them to lobby the Federal Government in support of its 
genetically modified canola crops. Monsanto has two applications before the 
Office of the Gene Technology Regulator for field trials of GM canola in 
NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. It also applied three 
weeks ago for the first Australian commercial licence to grow GM canola.

In a letter dated June 27, Monsanto asked farmers to write to the regulator 
expressing their support for GM canola. "These trials are needed to 
demonstrate the compatibility with current farming systems and to 
demonstrate the environmental, agronomic and economic benefits the 
technology will provide to Australian farmers," the letter says.

The letter stresses the importance of the public comment period, which 
ended on Friday, and says it is "an excellent opportunity for those 
involved in the canola industry to demonstrate strong support of the 
technology and to emphasise the need for timely sown trials in 2002". 
Included with the letter from Monsanto was a form letter that farmers can 
sign if they support GM canola and then send to the Gene Technology 
Regulator in Canberra.

A spokesman for Monsanto, Brian Arnst, said more than 1000 letters had been 
sent to canola farmers in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western 
Australia. "Most people don't realise the process of public comment 
happens," he said. "Those who oppose it certainly do because they use it to 
register protest, but we felt that it was important that farmers out there 
who are in support [of GM canola] should be given an opportunity to say 
so." It was the first time the firm had used this method, he said.

But one canola farmer, Arthur Bowman, called for a moratorium on the 
introduction of GM canola until more research has been done. Mr Bowman, a 
member of the NSW Farmers' Association who wants the association to address 
the issue at next week's annual conference, said farmers should be wary of 
GM canola because of the threat of contamination to non-GM canola.

"The benefits to farmers at this stage have not proved to be competitive in 
comparison to standard, non-GM canola products," said Mr Bowman, whose farm 
is at Molong, near Orange.

The Australian Oilseed Federation says Australia produced 1.4 million 
tonnes of canola last financial year. Of that, 1.3 million tonnes was 
exported. Markets such as Europe are increasingly looking for GM-free 

NSW Greens Senator Kerry Nettle criticised the Monsanto letter. 
"Multinational biotechnology firms like Monsanto are well aware that, 
should the public get the chance to hear the concerns about GE [genetically 
engineered] crops, they will reject this economically irresponsible and 
environmentally reckless technology," she said.


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