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6-Regulation: Australian farmers silent as GM decision nears

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TITLE:  Farmers silent as GM decision nears
SOURCE: Australian Financial Review, by Ashley Crossland
DATE:   Jan 20, 2003

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Farmers silent as GM decision nears

Most Australian farmers' groups have decided against surveying the
attitudes of their members to genetically modified crops, but they have
rejected suggestions they are trying to stifle farmers' views on the issue.

Greenpeace made the claims after 56 per cent of the 1000 respondents to a
South Australian Farmers Federation survey said they would not support
commercialisation unless they were guaranteed that there would be no
genetic pollution of non-GM crops.

About 80 per cent said a moratorium on GM commercialisation was appropriate.

Rural attitudes to GM have come into focus because of an imminent
decision on the approval of Australia's first commercial GM canola crop.
A decision on the application is likely before June. Organic and
environmental groups say a proposed five-metre buffer zone between GM and
non-GM crops would not prevent contamination.

The Victorian and West Australian farmers' federations and the NSW
Farmers' Association said they had seen the results of the South
Australian poll but had no intention of doing their own.

The NSWFA gene technology spokesman, Hugh Roberts, said the South
Australian survey was "not very useful" and was not a representative sample.

He said "not all the information is out there" and people needed to hear
more before forming an opinion. His view was that Australia should push
ahead with GM crops.

Paul Weller, from the VFF, said delegates at its last annual meeting
voted not to survey members.

A Greenpeace spokesman said farmers' groups were not allowing their
members to have a say on the issue.

Meanwhile, a GM information service backed by government and the National
Farmers Federation denied it was biased towards the interests of global
agrichemical companies, even though it is promoting a report funded by
agricultural giant Monsanto.

The service, Agrifood Awareness, is funded by the NFF, the Grains
Research and Development Corporation and Avcare, the main body for
multinational gene technology companies in Australia.

In a release last week, Agrifood Awareness said a report by the US-based
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
showed that farmers around the world were continuing to adopt GM crops
for their agronomic, social and economic benefits. The ISAAA is funded by
agritech giants Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science.