GM CROPS ARE FLOPS
ONLY Labor and The Greens are committed to defend GM-free farmers through farmer protection laws and to improving GM food labels. Both are sorely needed. WA's GM Crops Free Areas Act 2003 was repealed late last year. CropDeath Australia and the PGA cheered, on behalf of the big agrichemical and GM companies that they speak for. But the Gene Technology Act 2006 is still in force.
It is backed by the Inter-Government Agreement on Gene Technology to which all Australian governments belong.
So future WA governments will still have the power to set up GM-free zones and to ban new genetically manipulated (GM) crops, to avoid damaging valuable GM-free markets for all primary produce.
The risks of losing the European market and its substantial premiums ($35/tonne last week) through GM contamination of GM-free exports are great. State oversight of GM crops and foods is essential.
South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT sensibly remain GM-free, to reap the benefits of premium markets for their clean, green produce and are richly rewarded for supplying what shoppers want.
More than 90 per cent of WA farmers remain GM-free, but both conventional and organic farms remain at risk of market-disrupting contamination from GM canola.
GM growers ignore the weak Department of Agriculture guidelines for minimising GM contamination.
That's unfair, so the guidelines should be made enforceable.
Establishing a farmer protection fund is also a priority for the next state parliament. The fund should be financed by a levy of $1/kg on all the GM seed sold.
The GM industry would then pay for any harm it does. The farmers who suffer GM contamination and financial loss could then apply for automatic compensation without going to court.
In the Marsh versus Baxter case, the law courts failed to provide the compensation that governments had promised.
The hugely expensive, time-wasting, bitter and futile option of using the common law to get compensation for GM contamination was shown to be a farce. BOB PHELPS, Executive Director Gene Ethics, Emerald, Victoria.