6-Regulation: Australia requests five-metre buffer zone for GEcanola
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TITLE: Plan puts GM crops 'too near' organics
SOURCE: The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Stephanie Peatling
DATE: Jan 17, 2003
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Plan puts GM crops 'too near' organics
Farmers who grow genetically modified canola will only have to ensure a
five-metre buffer zone around their crops, according to the rules drawn
up before the first commercial release of the crop.
Chemical production giants Monsanto and Bayer both have applications with
the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator to supply herbicide-resistant
GM canola seeds to Australian farmers, which could be approved by April.
But traditional and organic farmers say the rules, produced by the
Federal Government's Gene Technology Grains Committee, are inadequate and
will not protect them from contamination.
Scott Kinnear, from the Organic Federation of Australia, said farmers who
wanted to remain GM free were "under threat".
"The organics industry completely rejects the protocol on the basis that
contamination will occur and the organics industry cannot afford for any
level of contamination," Mr Kinnear said.
A five-metre buffer zone was "completely inadequate" and contradicted
studies showing contamination can occur up to three kilometres away, he said.
The committee's paper is in draft form, but could be finalised by March.
It calls on the Australian grains industry to "embrace the principles of
The aim of the rules are "to enable the release of genetically modified
crops into the environment in a manner that maintains or enhances the
natural resource base and minimises the offsite impacts of agricultural
and related activities", says the paper. It was written by
representatives from the grains industry, science, governments and farmers.
Assessment and management will be largely self-regulated by the farmers
who choose to move into GM canola. The paper says any contamination of
non-GM canola crops would be the farmer's responsibility, not the
chemical companies that manufacture the seeds.
The chairman of the Gene Technology Grains Committee, Bob Watters, said
abiding by the buffer zones would mean contamination would be negligible.
It was "unrealistic" to believe there would be no contamination because
of exposure during transportation and processing.
"Right now there is strong apprehension towards GM canola because of the
enormous beat-up of the perceived risks," Mr Watters said.
"There are a number of parties with an ideological position against GM
who seize on every happening as proof of why we shouldn't have GM crops."
The committee's paper had addressed every concern, he said, and he called
on representatives from the organic farming industry to discuss the issues.
"They are looking at philosophical questions and we're looking at
technical issues," Mr Watters said.
But a NSW Greens MP, Ian Cohen, who is a member of the NSW Parliament's
inquiry into GM crops, said there was "no such thing as co-existence
between GM and non-GM crops".
"Co-existence is a euphemism for GM domination," said Mr Cohen, who wants
a moratorium on the further release of GM crops.
"The five-metre buffer zone is a complete joke and ignores the very
nature of canola which can be spread on the wind and through pollen."
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