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CONTAMINATION & REGULATION: Australian lawyers and politicians keep close eye on GM contamination law case



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   LAWYERS AND POLITICIANS KEEP CLOSE EYE ON GM CASE

SOURCE:  Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia (ABC)

AUTHOR:  Karen Hunt

URL:     http://www.abc.net.au/rural/wa/content/2011/02/s3134460.htm

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "A professor of law says Australia?s top legal and political minds are taking a strong interest in legal action arising from genetically modified contamination of an organic farm in Western Australia. [...] Mr Marsh has begun legal action but as there?s never been a case like this in Australia, exactly how it proceeds could be the subject of scrutiny and debate."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


LAWYERS AND POLITICIANS KEEP CLOSE EYE ON GM CASE

A professor of law says Australia?s top legal and political minds are taking a strong interest in legal action arising from genetically modified contamination of an organic farm in Western Australia.

Kojonup organic farmer Steve Marsh lost his organic certification after GM canola plants were discovered on his property; he alleges they were blown onto his land from his neighbour?s genetically modified canola crop.

Mr Marsh has begun legal action but as there?s never been a case like this in Australia, exactly how it proceeds could be the subject of scrutiny and debate.

Dr Luigi Palombi is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Sydney and also director of the Genetic Sequence Right Project at the Australian National University

He says there are two possible avenues the legal action could take, the first being the action Mr Marsh may bring against his neighbour which would happen at the state level.

?Then separately to that is the Intellectual Property issue and that involves the patent Monsanto has over the GM seed, and that, if it was to become an issue, would be sorted out in the Federal courts.?

Dr Palombi says it?s unlikely the highly publicised Percy Schmeiser case from Canada would influence any action in the Australian courts.

?Each case of this kind is decided on it?s own facts and on the law that applies to those facts - what happened with Percy Schmeiser happened in Canada and it was decided under Canadian patent law.

?It might seem strange for people to think that there was a difference but there is a difference - there?s no real harmonised system of patent laws.

?We have certain basic standards but in terms of how those laws are interpreted and applied, it really comes down to the local courts and the local laws.?

Dr Palombi says politicians, policy advisers, and Intellectual Property lawyers will all be among those watching this case closely because there?s been so little litigation in Australia over the patenting of genetic resources.

?Essentially this is a gene patent case - the argument is going to ultimately turn on whether or not the gene patent has been infringed.?

He says even if this case is sorted out without a trial, it doesn?t address future issues of contamination which may need to involve legislation at a state or federal level.

?There needs to be a nation wide policy developed and a set of laws that is actually going to involve this and determine where the rights and wrongs are going to be applied and how it?s all going to be sorted out.?



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   ORGANIC CONUNDRUM

SOURCE:  Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia, Australia (PGA)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.pgaofwa.org.au/press_releases/ORGANIC+CONUNDRUM

DATE:    02.02.2011

SUMMARY: "the mischievous, misleading claims made recently by Richard Huston and his client Steve Marsh can only be seen as an act of collective desperation. [...] It is easy to buy organic canola oil out of Canada, where up to 10million tonnes of GM canola are grown annually. The organics industry in Canada has grown alongside GM agriculture. There is nothing stopping this in Australia except NASAA?s own standards."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


ORGANIC CONUNDRUM

Regardless of one?s views on particular methods of production, the mischievous, misleading claims made recently by Richard Huston and his client Steve Marsh can only be seen as an act of collective desperation.

Huston?s client is threatening to sue his neighbour over the presence of swathed GM canola which purportedly blew a considerable distance onto his organic farm, resulting in a claim of millions of dollars in damages.

Huston submits that all biomass produced on a farm should stay on that farm. Given the power of wind and running water, plus the necessity to transport goods to market and the practical use of storage and handling facilities, this concept truly is unachievable.

The world?s farmers, in adopting technology that builds on past technological advances, now provide food and clothing for over 6billion people. Incredibly, per-capita production has increased as the world?s population has doubled!

But providing food and fibre to the world involves more than just on-farm invention and innovation. Common-sense agreement on maximum presence of certain unintended matter -- plants, grains, sand, insects, weeds, etc ? allows us to trade with each other more readily.

The Australian Government has adopted the strict international standard of 0.9% for GM seed presence in conventional canola to facilitate trade. Australian bulk handlers have easily met this tolerance threshold.

The Australian organic certification body, NASAA (National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia), ignores the internationally-accepted limit and sets a zero tolerance threshold for their members.

NASAA has withdrawn Huston?s client?s organic certification because of a strong wind event. Will it also strip certification of all organic farmers in the East who have been affected by the floods? Flood waters would have carried foreign material to those farms.

All GM grain, prior to being released commercially, was rigorously assessed by Australia?s Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) and deemed as safe for the environment and human health as conventional grain.

A little give and take between farmers, marketers and consumers has seen agriculture and consumers flourish. If organic farmers want to participate in this good will, it would be prudent for NASAA to demonstrate consistency across all jurisdictions and adopt the Australian standards.

It is easy to buy organic canola oil out of Canada, where up to 10million tonnes of GM canola are grown annually. The organics industry in Canada has grown alongside GM agriculture. There is nothing stopping this in Australia except NASAA?s own standards.

They are absurd and unfortunate -- for Australian organic producers.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   ZERO TOLERANCE TO GM REMAINS: NASAA

SOURCE:  Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia (ABC)

AUTHOR:  Karen Hunt

URL:     http://www.abc.net.au/rural/wa/content/2011/01/s3122376.htm

DATE:    26.01.2011

SUMMARY: "The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia is standing firm on its zero tolerance stance on genetically modified contamination. However the organisation says it is willing to speak with the grains industry about ways to prevent future contamination issues. NASAA de-certified Western Australian organic grower Steve Marsh?s accreditation after GM canola seed was discovered on his property near Kojonup."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


ZERO TOLERANCE TO GM REMAINS: NASAA

The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia is standing firm on its zero tolerance stance on genetically modified contamination.

However the organisation says it is willing to speak with the grains industry about ways to prevent future contamination issues.

NASAA de-certified Western Australian organic grower Steve Marsh?s accreditation after GM canola seed was discovered on his property near Kojonup.

Mr Marsh alleges GM canola blew onto his land from a neighbour?s property.

NASAA chair Jan Denham says there?s been no signal from the market that consumers want the standards changed.

?That is why people are buying organic food because they don?t want GM technology in the food that they purchase.

?We had the case in Europe where the government has set a tolerance, but if you look at the market-place, it is still demanding zero tolerance.?

Ms Denham says any change to the standards would need to be publicly debated between industry and consumers.

However she says the industry has just been through a wide public consultation for Standards Australia in developing the Australian standards and there was no push for allowing for anything other than zero tolerance.

Ms Denham says there are other ways to prevent this situation happening again.

?My understanding is this canola was swathed and it was left to lie; maybe one of the changes is that GM canola to reduce another area that could create possible contamination should only be direct harvested.?

She says industry would also like to see some moves made by the GM sector to address the issue, rather than have the organics industry expected to bear the burden of change.

Listen: Click here for a longer version of this interview (RealAudio)

http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rural/wa/countryhour/click_here_m1956282.mp3