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CONTAMINATION & BUSINESS: Survey exposes unplanned GM canola spread in Western Australia



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   SURVEY EXPOSES UNPLANNED GM CROP SPREAD

SOURCE:  Perth Now, Australia

AUTHOR:  Narelle Towie

URL:     http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/special-features/survey-exposes-unplanned-gm-crop-spread/story-e6frg19l-1226142034031

DATE:    20.09.2011

SUMMARY: "GENETICALLY modified canola plants have been discovered growing on the edge of major roads in Esperance, the Conservation Council says. Four teams of volunteers collected 190 stray canola plants from the edge of the South Coast Highway, Norseman Road, Condingup and Fisheries Road in Esperance, about 730km south-east of Perth.

Testing revealed two of the 190 plants were genetically modified. Conservation Council scientist and research leader Dr Nic Dunlop said the study, although small, proves that road transport of GM crops can spread the plants over vast areas, posing a risk to organic and non-GM farmers who rely on the purity of their crops for market certification."

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SURVEY EXPOSES UNPLANNED GM CROP SPREAD

GENETICALLY modified canola plants have been discovered growing on the edge of major roads in Esperance, the Conservation Council says.

Four teams of volunteers collected 190 stray canola plants from the edge of the South Coast Highway, Norseman Road, Condingup and Fisheries Road in Esperance, about 730km south-east of Perth.

Testing revealed two of the 190 plants were genetically modified.

Conservation Council scientist and research leader Dr Nic Dunlop said the study, although small, proves that road transport of GM crops can spread the plants over vast areas, posing a risk to organic and non-GM farmers who rely on the purity of their crops for market certification.

He said that although only two plants were found, just 8 per cent of canola crops in WA are genetically modified. Esperance was chosen for the study because it has the highest level of GM farming in WA with 30 growers in the region.

?Major spillages of GM seed, like the one that occurred in Williams recently, are not the only bio-security risk associated with the road transport of this product,? Dr Dunlop said.

?Vehicles or containers used to transport GM canola will need to be literally water tight if they are going to avoid dispersing seed and contaminating the regions they pass through.?

GM seeds are made by biotechnology companies who take genes from plants, animals or bacteria and transfer them into commercial crops such as canola, corn, soybean and cotton. These genes provide resistance to pests, diseases, weed killer, drought or frost.

Greens spokesperson Lynn MacLaren said a larger study throughout the Wheatbelt was needed to determine if rogue GM plants are growing elsewhere in WA.

?In just one year of GM canola cropping, we have seen an organic farm contaminated, a major GM canola spill in Williams that has still not been properly cleaned up, and now we have evidence of GM canola growing on the roadside due to trucking. It is clear that GM canola cannot be contained,? Ms MacLaren said.

An exemption order on commercial cultivation of GM crops in WA was lifted in January 2009.

However, 11 months later Kojonup grain and sheep grower Steve Marsh was stripped of his organic certification after rogue seeds allegedly blew over his property. He is embroiled in a legal battle with neighbour Michael Baxter in what is predicted to be a multimillion-dollar landmark lawsuit.

Ms MacLaren said that levels of GM contamination of non-GM crops in one year is estimated at 0.83 per cent to 0.96 per cent and it is predicted that these levels will exponentially increase with each growing season if GM volunteers are not controlled.

Questions put to the Department of Agriculture and its Minister Terry Redman were not answered by the time this article was published.



                                  PART 2

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

TITLE:   GM CANOLA GENIE ALREADY OUT OF THE BOTTLE

SOURCE:  Conservation Council of Western Australia, Australia (CCWA)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://ccwa.org.au/media/gm-canola-genie-already-out-bottle

DATE:    20.09.2011

SUMMARY: "A recent ?citizen science? survey of fugitive canola plants growing on the edges of major roads in the Esperance region has demonstrated that road transport can spread genetically modified plants over vast areas. [...] According to Conservation Council of WA Citizen Science Coordinator Dr Nic Dunlop, ?Canola plants were found growing on the hard shoulders of main roads throughout the region, which indicates that current road transport is playing a role in the establishment of a fugitive population. The GM component of this population will be an ongoing bio-security risk to the majority of canola farmers who are maintaining crops of GM-free traditional and organic products and, conceivably, to the environment.?"

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GM CANOLA GENIE ALREADY OUT OF THE BOTTLE

A recent ?citizen science? survey of fugitive canola plants growing on the edges of major roads in the Esperance region has demonstrated that road transport can spread genetically modified plants over vast areas.

Commercial production of GM canola in Western Australia commenced in 2010, with about 8% of the state?s canola crop consisting of GM varieties. The Esperance region had the greatest take-up of GM growers in the state.

According to Conservation Council of WA Citizen Science Coordinator Dr Nic Dunlop, ?Canola plants were found growing on the hard shoulders of main roads throughout the region, which indicates that current road transport is playing a role in the establishment of a fugitive population. The GM component of this population will be an ongoing bio-security risk to the majority of canola farmers who are maintaining crops of GM-free traditional and organic products and, conceivably, to the environment.?

?Using Agrastrip test kits, the citizen science team screened leaf material from 190 canola plants from main roads in the region. Two GM plants were located within the Esperance town site, both close to a truck depot involved in grain transport.

?Major spillages of GM seed, like the one that occurred in Williams recently, are not the only bio-security risk associated with the road transport of this product. Vehicles or containers used to transport GM canola will need to be literally water tight if they are going to avoid dispersing seed and contaminating the regions they pass through.?

Marli Starcevich from local environmental group Esperance LEAF said, ?The results of the survey should be a wake-up call for the Main Roads Department and wheatbelt shires as they will potentially inherit the cost and legal responsibility for fugitive GM canola on the road reserves. Citizen science-based monitoring of the spread of the GM genome is likely to continue in Esperance and elsewhere in the absence of a robust government or industry surveillance program.?

The fugitive canola survey was a joint initiative conducted by the CCWA, Esperance LEAF and GM Cropwatch. The full survey report can be found at ccwa.org.au