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2-Plants: Two articles on GE crop segregation

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  GM, Non-GM Wheat Can Co-exist
SOURCE: Winnipeg Free Press, Canada, by Rolf Penner
DATE:   Feb 11, 2003

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GM, Non-GM Wheat Can Co-exist
If tolerance levels are reasonable, cross-pollination not a danger

In a recent free press article, Interlake sheep rancher Peter Schroedter
wrote about the perils of genetically modified (GM) wheat to prairie farmers.

His biggest bone of contention was segregation. Opponents of GM wheat
want a 100% guarantee that this new wheat will not cross-pollinate with
existing varieties, they wish to insure widespread 'genetic purity'. This
is quite a request since no one has ever been able to achieve 'genetic
purity' on a commercial scale before. Even the organic industry won't
give you a 100% guarantee on the content of their products; what they
guarantee is a process with reasonable tolerance levels. For example in
pesticide residues, organic standards in the United States allow for 5%
of the EPA tolerance levels.

That's not to say that genetic purity is impossible, plant breeders
attain it all the time in their labs and by situating their plots in the
center of large tracts of land surrounded by buffer crops and following
various protocols. But they don't do it by holding their neighbors
responsible for their own bio-security.

For the first time in history people are actually worried about wheat
contaminating wheat. Which is absolutely absurd. The difference today is
not that we have put manmade characteristics in the wheat; we have been
doing that for generations now. It's that we have now figured out how to
track them.


Maintaining 100% genetic purity is not realistic, the real question is
what level of genetic transfer might we expect to see and would that
level be acceptable? This varies from plant to plant and from variety to
variety within a plant species. Self-pollinating plants like wheat and
soybeans have a much lower level of transfer than cross-pollinating
plants such as canola or corn because after a relatively short distance
the pollen actually dies. The university of Southern Illinois weed
science department recently did a study on GM soybeans, which showed that
after a distance of 2 feet 100% of the pollen had perished. Australian
researchers whose work was published in the July 2002 Science Journal
showed that canola pollen containing a herbicide resistant gene could be
found up to 2.6 kilometers from the source. However from samples taken
all the way out to 2.6km. the average number of seeds that actually
carried the new gene was 9 in 100,000 or .0009%. The single sample
containing the highest level of seeds with the genes was 7 in 10,000 or
.07%. It's not unrealistic to expect similar kinds of results from wheat.
Which is way below the standards that even the radically anti-GM European
union currently sets at 1%.

This is one reason why farmers such as myself have been able to easily
sell non-GM canola with and without identity-preserved programs while
there has been an ever-increasing amount of GM canola (70% this year)
being planted. It's not that GM canola is absent in every field, but that
it is present in such extremely low concentrations as to be
inconsequential to the final product.

The modern high-tech farmer increases his odds of being GM free by simply
rotating his herbicides or growing a 'Clearfield' variety. These are
varieties that have been bred in the traditional way but are resistant to
a broad-spectrum herbicide that can easily kill GM glyphosate tolerant
canola. As I was writing this article the first ever 'Clearfield' wheat
variety was registered for use in western Canada, it will be available to
farmers in 2004.

Then there's the identity-preserved route. Which is a closed loop system
requiring farmer's to not have grown any GM canola in the last three
years, and then buy clean certified seed from the same company that they
will eventually sell their final crop to. And the farmer must maintain at
least a 25 metre buffer crop or zone from any GM canola.

Tried and True

Then there are the tried and true low-tech strategies, which include
things like: rotating your crops, tillage before seeding and just talking
to your neighbors to see when they are planting their crops. A mere 5-day
difference in seeding dates insures that neighboring crops will pollinate
at separate times.

When any combination of these strategy's and systems are used they do not
add any kind of significant cost to the farmer, as the opponents of GM
wheat would have us believe, they are simply a continuation of what
farmers have always done.

Then there's the question of segregation in the supply chain. We have
been doing it for a few years now in canola but can we do it on a large
scale with wheat? At a recent Sask-Pool meeting in Winnipeg this question
was raised and a representative replied that not only would segregation
be possible but also that they would probably be able to make money on it.

So can GM wheat and non-GM wheat co-exist? In a zero tolerance world that
is able to detect variations down to 4 decimal points the answer is no,
but if tolerance levels are acceptable at1% or less, absolutely.

Rolf Penner is a Grain and Hog farmer in the RM of Morris.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Study of way to segregate GMO crops
SOURCE: Australian Associated Press
DATE:   Feb 10, 2003

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Study of way to segregate GMO crops

CANBERRA (AAP) - A system to segregate genetically modified crops from
traditional grains will be studied, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss
said today.

Mr Truss said four case studies would look at the effectiveness of
separating different varieties of GM crops and tracing them through the
supply chain. Tasmanian Quality Assured will conduct four case studies
covering the cotton, canola and poppy industries and the connection
between GM pastures and the dairy industry.

Mr Truss said the study was a deliberate attempt to broaden the research
now being carried out into the GM sector.

"Most of the quality management systems developed so far have been to
address food quality and safety perspectives," he said in a statement.

"It is important to make sure products are accurately identified to meet
new labelling laws and to preserve the identity of products in the

GM opponent and GeneEthics Network director Bob Phelps said the new study
proved the government was working in a knowledge vacuum on genetically
altered crops.

He said studies on GM canola segregation, and a CSIRO study into the
environmental impact of GM crops, were both two years from completion.

"There's a giant knowledge vacuum on GM crops and commercial release
should stop till all scientific and management evidence is in," he said
in a statement.

The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator is considering applications
for the release of genetically altered canola this year.

Only two GM crops are grown in Australia, cotton and carnations. GM
companies battle to salvage reputation in face of public backlash