THE WESTERN Australian government’s plans to conduct trials on genetically modified canola have hit a speed hump, with an upper house motion tabled to design to stall the trials.
Late last week, a disallowance motion was put to the WA upper house in a bid to halt the trials, as we head deeper into April and the traditional canola sowing window for much of the state.
It was moved by Greens member Paul Llewellyn and was passed with the assistance of independent Anthony Fels.
Mr Llewellyn said the Victorian and New South Wales examples, where genetically modified canola is now allowed to be grown commercially, showed there was insufficient support for growers not wishing to use the technology to stay GM-free.
However, WA minister for agriculture Terry Redman has assured growers GM trials will be going ahead.
He told farmers that he intends to sign an exemption order that will allow the trials to go ahead.
Although he said there will be confusion surrounding the situation in the farming community, it was a certainty the trials would go ahead.
There has been the approval for medium-scale commercial trials totaling 1000ha, but anti-GM groups have been fighting a desperate last-ditch battle to stop them going ahead.
The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) has followed on from its tactic when commercialisation of GM was launched on the east coast and has told farmers considering growing GM trials that they would be sued should there be any contamination.
"We will launch actions on a whole range of fronts," said NCF spokesperson, Julie Newman. "Legally, non-GM means no GM, not even 0.001%."
Mr Llewellyn concurred with Mrs Newman’s assertion that non-GM farmers could not afford to have GM foisted upon them.
“There is no legal framework in place to ensure strict liability for damage to non-GM growers by the big companies that seek to profit from market domination in GM agriculture.”
He also said those growing the trials needed to consider their legal position, saying that they would receive scant help from the technology’s developer, Monsanto, should there be any lawsuits for contamination.
"The arrangements that were proposed by the government simply did not offer an appropriate level of protection to the farmers involved in the trials, to non-GM farmers, or to consumers.
"GM growers were required to sign up to full responsibility and liability for the trials, even though the level of contamination risk is not properly understood.
Mrs Newman said letters had been sent to GM canola trial farmers outlining their legal liabilities before seeding begins.
"We are simply making these farmers aware of what they are getting themselves into and their ultimate liability," said Julie Newman. "Our early notification states our refusal to accept the burden of contamination, inadequate crop management and coexistent plans."
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