Melville Times - - Opinion -

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.

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