November 3, 2008

Grain farmers dismiss fears as GM rapeseed enters market


Australian farmers have been growing GM cotton for more than a decade and now the second big GM crop, rapeseed, is about to make its way to the supermarket.


They say GM rapeseed will cause contamination in the paddock and beyond because it cannot be segregated, penalising farmers who don't want to grow GM and denying consumer's choice.


Last year, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria ended bans on commercial GM rapeseed crops after inquiries found GM rapeseed could be grown without harming those who did not want to grow or eat it.


The biotechnology company Monsanto said 108 farmers have grown its GM rapeseed in the two states. Their crop will be crushed to produce oil used in cooking and processed foods, while the meal will be fed to livestock.


Monsanto's Roundup Ready rapeseed contains genes from soil bacteria that make the crop tolerant of the herbicide Roundup.


It allows farmers to spray their crop with Roundup, killing weeds that have developed resistance to traditional chemicals but doing no harm to the canola.


Riverland Oilseeds will buy GM rapeseed for the same price it pays for conventional rapeseed and process it at its plant in Victoria.


The company's trading manager, Archer Walters, said he expected Australians would accept GM rapeseed given that they already eat meat from animals fed with imported GM soy meal and fish and chips fried in oil pressed from Australian GM cotton seed.


Louise Sales from Greenpeace said the harvest meant there would be more GM going into Australian food and government had failed to deliver labeling laws that ensured consumers knew this.


To minimise any risk of "unintentional co-mingling", in NSW the grain handler Graincorp is only receiving GM rapeseed at its Grenfell and Lockhart silos this year. Neither site will accept conventional rapeseed.

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