By Larissa Mullot
A report into segregation and liability issues surrounding the introduction
of genetically modified crops says current farming systems, commercial
contracts and common law can adequately accommodate GM crops.
The report, by Mark Barber from economics and policy consulting firm
ACIL Tasman, was commissioned by the agricultural advocacy group Avcare.
It says standard practice among Australian farmers and common law give
both GM-crop farmers and farmers who choose to grow conventional or organic
crops protection and the ability to seek compensation for any economic
Farmers have been dealing with new crop species, new varieties and chemical
treatments for many years, the report says, and these challenges have
been managed routinely.
Further, bulk-handling companies do not view GM crops as presenting any
additional challenges. According to the report, farmers" property
rights are established and managed by a hierarchy of mechanisms, which
Trends towards segregation and assurances in agriculture for identity
preservation and traceability also mean that those responsible for possible
damages caused by exceeding industry-established tolerances are less likely
to escape identification.
Further, strong incentives already exist to encourage the grains industry
to successfully manage the commercial introduction of GM crops. Failure
to do so would lead to:
Demonstrating the effectiveness of the current system, according to Mr
Barber, is the very low incidence of contaminated grain finding its way
into the bulk handling system - 60 per cent of wheat stored in the
eastern states of Australia is marketed as "Pesticide Residue Free",
enabling it to be sold to sensitive markets such as Japan and Korea. The
remainder all comes in below maximum residue limits.
In principle, there are three legal approaches to managing GM crops,
according to the report:
The Australian Government, like the governments of the United Kingdom,
New Zealand, the US and Canada, has declined to introduce new liability
regimes for GM crops.
All of these countries believe that common law is flexible enough to
manage the results of gene technologies.
For more information: http://www.croplifeaustralia.org.au/default.asp?V_DOC_ID=1608