Genetic Contamination Spreads in 'GM-Free' Australia
Sydney Morning Herald | August 9 2005
Environmentalists say Australia is facing “the most serious genetic contamination event” in its history, after the West Australian government confirmed low levels of genetically modified canola had been found in non-GM canola.
A spokeswoman for WA Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said that tests had shown positive results of GM material but samples had been sent overseas for further testing and until more detailed results were confirmed no further details could be released.
The latest test results come after GM material was found during routine testing by the Australian Barley Board in June of an export consignment of Victorian canola seeds bound for Japan. About 0.01 per cent of the consignment contained the GM material.
It is believed the modification found in Victoria, known as Topas 19/2 and developed by Bayer CropScience, was also found in the WA sample tested.
Following Monday’s announcement, Greenpeace Australia campaigner Jeremy Tager said state governments must now take immediate action to protect Australia’s GM free status.
“This is the most serious genetic contamination event that Australia has ever faced and the response from state governments in the coming days will determine their commitment to upholding Australia’s (GM) free status,” Mr Tager said.
“The WA and Victorian governments have instituted rigorous testing.
“They are taking this issue extremely seriously but the lack of any response from the NSW and South Australian governments is disturbing.
“States that have not conducted testing, or taken steps to determine if Topas is a problem in their agricultural areas, are putting Australian farmers and our (GM) free status at risk.”
WA’s Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said he would like to see legislation put in place at a national level to govern liability for GM contamination.
Although he believed WA’s GM-free status was not under threat, he was keeping a close watch on the situation.
Hew said while tests had given a positive result, there could be a number of reasons for that.
“It’s certainly a matter for concern, but it is an interim test, and the nature of those interim tests is that false positives are possible,” Mr Chance told ABC radio.
“So really until we get the final information from that trial, which won’t be until early-September, it’s really speculative to say that we actually have that problem.
“I know that the Network of Concerned Farmers have argued very strongly for strict liability laws of that kind, and I think it’s something that we need to be thinking about very seriously.”
Julie Newman, from the Network of Concerned Farmers, said if the contamination was confirmed, the problem must be isolated and removed because GM-free status was too valuable to lose.