GENET archive


2-Plants: GM contaminated crops found in canola from Victoria (Australia)

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  GM contaminated crops found
SOURCE: The Advertiser, Australia, posted at
DATE:   14 Jul 2005

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GM contaminated crops found

AUTHORITIES have confirmed the first known contamination of a food crop
with genetically modified material in Australia.

The Federal Government has rushed to assure the public about the safety
of the canola and the integrity of current moratoria on the use of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food crops.

Opponents say the contamination could have severe consequences for
exporters, while Labor says the incident raises serious doubts about the
Government's management of the quarantine system.

The GM material was found during routine testing by the Australian Barley
Board (ABB) of an export consignment of Victorian canola seeds that was
bound for Japan. About 0.01 per cent of the consignment contained the GM

The Government's Gene Technology Regulator, Sue Meek, said the
modification is known as Topas 19/2 - a variety which provides tolerance
to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium. Dr Meek said the GM line,
developed by Bayer CropScience, was trialled in Australia before the
national regulatory system for gene technology came into effect in 2001
but has been found to be safe for people and the environment. GM canola
is being trialled in Victoria but its use in commercial food crops is
banned under moratoria in that state and every other jurisdiction except

Dr Meek said the GM trait had also been found to be safe in Europe,
China, the United States, Canada and Japan.

Trials approved by the regulator were not the source of the contamination
and authorities were investigating the source of the material. Victorian
Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron said the GM trace was likely to have
come from a Canadian gene "inadvertently" imported into Australia in
conventional seed.

"It's suggested that the material was probably imported in the late 1990s
or early 2000 at a time when there was no approval for GM material to be
commercially released in Australia," a spokeswoman for the minister said.
Victorian Primary Industry Department deputy secretary Bruce Kefford said
the extremely low level of GM canola technically breached the state's
moratorium. But he said there was no suggestion that any offence had been
committed because a farmer would have had to knowingly cultivated GM canola.

The ABB, Australia's wheat exporter AWB, and the Victorian Farmers
Federation all said they were not concerned about the incident. Bayer
CropScience said trace levels of GM material was a reality in
agricultural production systems where seeds are exchanged between
countries. "Marketers and farmers meet many quality and impurity
parameters for their products every day, so GM is just another one,"
Bayer's BioScience manager Susie O'Neill said. "The marketers have
indicated that their ability to meet their international customer and
regulatory standards will be unchanged by this finding."

The federal Opposition said the incident raised questions about the
quarantine system and how widespread the GM variety had become in
Australia's supposedly GM-free commercial canola crops. "Australian
canola exports are worth around $400 million annually. When a buyer asks
for GM-free Australian canola then that should be what they get," Labor's
agriculture spokesman Gavan O'Connor said. A spokeswoman for federal
Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran declined to comment.

The Network of Concerned Farmers, which opposes GMOs for commercial
reasons, said the find had the potential to damage Australian export
markets which demand canola be GM-free. "We've had enough of the industry
lying to us, saying a little bit of contamination is OK," network
spokeswoman and West Australian canola exporter Julie Newman said. "Bayer
must take responsibility for this."

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

TITLE:  Producers downplay GM crop contamination
SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
DATE:   15 Jul 2005

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Producers downplay GM crop contamination

Australia's largest genetically modified food producer is playing down
the significance of crops found to be contaminated. Bayer Crop Science
says canola seeds to be exported to Japan have been contaminated.
Opponents of GM crops say it will mean reduced sales for farmers who are
GM free. Bayer says it is not responsible for the contamination of pure
grains and that the level of contamination is insignificant. "It's about
10 times the level that is normally reportable for grains, and about 100
times below the level that is required for food labelling generally for
GMO products here in Australia," Bayer spokeswoman Susie O'Neill said.
"So it is a minuscule amount that has been detected." Ms O'Neill says it
is unlikely the GM material originated from one of Bayer's sites. "This
particular event has not been grown in a trial in Victoria since 1996 and
it was an extremely small trial, less than one hectare, done under very
stringent conditions," she said. Australian Barley Board (ABB) corporate
manager Maggie Dowling says people should not over-react to the
contamination. "It's an issue in terms of the moratorium that it
shouldn't be there, but it is extremely low trace levels, so from a trace
perspective we're confident we can meet all customer and international
regulator requirements," she said. However, it is still unclear how the
contamination occurred. The Victorian Government says the gene was most
likely imported accidentally from North America . Several trials of
genetically modified crops have been run in Victoria, but are quarantined
from other stock to stop genetically modified strains of grain spreading.
Anti-GM groups say the contamination is proof of the risks involved with
genetic modification.

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Bayer blamed for GM canola contamination
SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
DATE:   18 Jul 2005

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Bayer blamed for GM canola contamination

Greenpeace has blamed the creator of a genetically modified (GM) canola
for the contamination of a consignment of pure canola with GM material.
The consignment was due for export but found to have a small trace
element of GM material. The company trialing several genetically modified
crops in Victoria, Bayer Cropscience, says it is not to blame.
Greenpeace's Jeremy Taggert says Bayer should take responsibility for the
organism it created. "We know that seed coming from the United States has
a high possibility of being contaminated, so this is not a problem that
we can simply say is a one-off one, or is unexpected," he said. "It is
entirely expected and I think we will see that this is only the tip of
the iceberg." Victorian Farmers Federation's grains group president Ian
Hastings says people should not overreact to what is a very small
contamination. "I am certainly not alarmed," he said. "Yes, it is
something that we didn't expect to be there, but at these levels I think
we need to just keep an open mind and see what happens over the next
three to five weeks while we do further testing."

                                  PART IV
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GCA Slams GM Canola Hysteria
SOURCE: AgReport, Australia
DATE:   18 Jul 2005

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GCA Slams GM Canola Hysteria

SYDNEY - Jul 18/05 - SNS -- Negative reaction to the discovery of 0.01%
genetically modified (GM) canola in an export consignment is unjustified
hysteria in the view of Grains Council of Australia (GCA) President
Murray Jones. "There is no potential at all for this detection to impact
on our export sales. At 0.01%, the presence of GM canola is at the very
edge of what can be measured. This is really a trace amount and we have
full confidence in the processes being put in place to investigate the
source of the canola that has been detected." "Calls for more regulation
are political grand standing, as there is no proof anywhere in the world
that this technology is harmful or risky to health or the environment.
Demands by activists for admission of liability and a recall of the
product by Bayer Cropscience are ludicrous. The superseded Topas 19/2
product was last grown in a trial in Australia in 1998 and has not been
grown in trials in Australia since", he said. "There is no justification
for additional regulation of agri-biotechnology. What we should be doing
is reducing the regulation and boosting the research. The Australian
grains industry spends $6 million per year on biotechnology research and
taxpayers spend about $8 million a year on regulation. [...]


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