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CONTAMINATION & REGULATION: Australian GM contamination lawsuit really about ’choice’ not about GM crops





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TITLE:   GM LAWSUIT REALLY ABOUT ?CHOICE?

SOURCE:  The Land, Australia

AUTHOR:  Colin Bettles

URL:     http://theland.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/grains-and-cropping/general/gm-lawsuit-really-about-choice/2286675.aspx

DATE:    13.09.2011

SUMMARY: "AUSTRALIAN Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) chief executive officer, Professor Peter Langridge, says the Kojonup ?contamination? issue (Marsh versus Baxter case) is really about farmers? freedom of choice and not genetically modified crops. [...] he said the organic movement was trying to prevent GM crops being grown and restrict freedom of choice for farmers, by imposing ?arbitrary and unreasonable? rules on organic produce."

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GM LAWSUIT REALLY ABOUT ?CHOICE?

AUSTRALIAN Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) chief executive officer, Professor Peter Langridge, says the Kojonup ?contamination? issue (Marsh versus Baxter case) is really about farmers? freedom of choice and not genetically modified (GM) crops.

The Professor at the ACPFG, based at the Adelaide University where government approved GM trials for wheat and barley are being conducted, also says the organic movement is making decisions ?contrary to good science?.

Professor Langridge told The Land farmers should be allowed to exercise their rights to grow any crops that have passed all necessary regulatory approval processes and been shown to be perfectly safe for the environment and human health ? including GM crops.

But he said the organic movement was trying to prevent GM crops being grown and restrict freedom of choice for farmers, by imposing ?arbitrary and unreasonable? rules on organic produce.

Organic production is currently only a very small proportion of Australia?s cropping area he said, and it would be unfortunate if this ?small minority? restricted access to beneficial technologies to the majority of growers for ?ideological reasons?.

National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NAS-AA) chairperson, Jan Denham, said her organisation respected farmers? rights to grow the crops they wished to, but she said they did not have the right to impose those choices on their neighbours.

?It seems that the proponents of GM crops wish the right to farm with no consideration of their neighbours,? she said.

?What about the choices of other farmers who do not wish to use GM crops?

?This is not an issue just for organic farmers; there are many conventional farmers who are opposed to GM crops and do not wish their farms to be contaminated with GM crops.?

Ms Denham said NASAA wasn?t the only organisation with a zero tolerance for GMs.

She said it was also the Australian organic industry?s position, through both the National Standard and the AS 6000 standard.

She said there was a continued misunderstanding regarding the tolerance levels for GM contamination in the EU and other countries.

?All organic regulations worldwide prohibit the known use or presence of GMs ? where there are tolerances these are for adventitious and technically unavoidable presence ? not known contamination,? she said.

?The EU may have tolerance levels but the organic market is still demanding zero tolerance ? the consumers demand ? and most EU organic certifiers do not allow for GM contamination.?

However, CropLife Australia chief executive officer, Matthew Cossey, said Australia?s organic standards were out of step with the rest of the world.

The ACPFG is breeding GM varieties that will examine tolerance to abiotic (environmental) stresses including drought, salinity, boron, frost tolerance and nitrogen use efficiency.

Professor Langridge said the process of developing a GM crop was slow and complex, but the centre also used data from its GM trials to develop models and strategies for managing stress tolerance in wheat and barley.

He said through genetic engineering, it could modify one gene at a time which was a far more controlled process than through normal crossing, allowing better understanding of the genetic basis for stress tolerance.

?Ultimately we hope to release GM wheat and barley to Australian and overseas farmers, but this is more than 10 years away after many more trials,? he said.