Nullarbor divides GM canola views

Image of a field of canola

GM canola growing in Victoria.

SA Growers push for GM

Grain Producers South Australia CEO Darren Arney has warned that canola production in the state will continue to decline if growers cannot access GM varieties to compete with growers elsewhere in Australia and overseas.

Australian Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce has also urged SA to reconsider its moratorium on GM crops. While speaking at an agribusiness leaders event in Adelaide, Mr Joyce said it was time SA became a ‘yes’ state in relation to GM crops.

On the other side of the Nullarbor, the WA Labor Party says it will ban GM crops if it wins the next election. In an ABC Radio interview a Labor member in the Legislative Council, Darren West, said Labor would develop a long-term plan with industry to transition out of GM crops.

In contrast, the WA Government intends to repeal the state’s Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Act 2003. The proposed repeal is expected to be read before parliament by the end of the year. The WA Government has support from both the WA Farmers Federation and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association.

Marsh versus Baxter: appeal update

In March, the appeal of the case between two WA farmers, Steve Marsh and Michael Baxter, was heard in the Supreme Court of WA.

Kojonup organic grower Mr Marsh was appealing against a finding in favour of his GM-cropping neighbour, Mr Baxter, from 2014.

The grounds of the appeal presented by Mr Marsh’s legal team were that Mr Baxter had a greater duty of care to protect Mr Marsh’s organic certification, and that Mr Baxter should have considered the risk of canola swathes blowing onto his neighbour’s farm.

Mr Baxter’s legal team told the court that he could not have known the canola swathes would be carried by the wind or lead to the decertification of Mr Marsh’s organic wheat crop as the organic crop was far away from the canola swathes. He also claimed that Mr Marsh could have moved his wheat crop away from the boundary.

The legal team representing Mr Marsh also appealed the costs order against Mr Marsh.

The judges hearing the appeal ordered

Mr Baxter to disclose any financial assistance he may have received from industry.

Monsanto Australia managing director Daniel Kruithoff said the company contributed to the Baxters’ legal costs to ensure the couple could defend themselves. He said Monsanto’s agreement with the Baxters was limited to its contribution to legal costs and that the company had no other role in the case. No date has been given for the appeal outcome.

Updated GM guide

The ABCA launched the second edition of The Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops during the 15th annual Science Meets Parliament event in Canberra in March.

The updated booklet provides information about GM crops. Topics covered include the science, performance, safety and regulation of GM crops as well as products in the pipeline and the commercial and market realities. The guide also gives a voice to growers using GM crops and answers some common questions regarding stockfeed, organisations involved in GM crop research and food safety.

EU approves GM products

The European Commission has authorised 10 new GM products for food/feed use, plus seven renewals of existing authorisations. These products have not been approved for cultivation in the EU, but have been approved as safe for food and feed use there. The authorisations are valid for 10 years, and any products produced from these GM sources will be subject to the EU’s labelling and traceability rules.

The new products approved include a drought-tolerant maize, five GM soybean varieties modified for herbicide tolerance and/or modified oil profile, a herbicide-tolerant canola, and three herbicide-tolerant and/or insect-resistant cotton varieties.

GM camelina trial

GM camelina (false flax), created to contain health-boosting omega-3, has been fed to salmon to assess its performance in fish feeding trials.

The camelina crop was modified with genes to produce an oil rich in a fatty acid normally only found in fish. It is the first example of a new generation of so-called ‘nutraceuticals’ – plants with a genetic structure altered to introduce health-boosting properties. The plant oil has been created to feed farmed fish, such as salmon, to boost their omega-3 content and make food healthier for consumers.

More information:

ABCA

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