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Australian Farmers Turning Against Frankencrops

Australian Farmers Turning Against Frankencrops

Sidney Morning Herald, Saturday June 16, front page
Farmers pull out of GM crop trials
By Andrew Darby in Hobart

Farmers are rapidly turning against genetically modified crops, with
Tasmanian trials of canola becoming an environmental and bureaucratic
mess.

Tasmanian Government inspectors were disappointed to find that in 57
trial plots, planted before the State's total GM ban, 39 had regrowth
canola seedlings from old crops.

Of greater concern to the inspectors were an additional five plots where
flowering had started, bringing the plants a stage closer to spreading
into the surrounding environment.

Such breaches as this could attract severe penalties under GM
regulations which come into force next Thursday.

The inspectors' audit report found farmers involved in the canola trial
were frustrated and disillusioned.

"One farmer stated in hindsight it was the worst decision that he and
his family had made in all their years of farming," the report said.
"Other farmers [said] had they known about the mandatory follow-up
requirements they would never have considered growing the crop."

The audit has highlighted serious problems for farmers around Australia
as the June 21 start date approaches for the country's first enforceable
controls over GM organisms.</P>

Farmers told State inspectors they were very worried about
confidentiality and possible harassment for growing GM crops.

They were also concerned about legal requirements for follow-up controls
to eliminate regrowth plants for years after the crop was first planted.

Agrifood Awareness Australia, a national farm products organisation,
said there was caution from shire councils and worry among farmers.

"A lot are saying 'we want to wait and see, will these crops be attacked
the way they have been in Britain?'" said the organisation's executive
manager, Ms Paula Fitzgerald.

The agricultural multinational Aventis said a certain stigma had become
attached to GM crops in some communities, depending on the level of
debate in them. Its public affairs manager, Ms Naomi Stevens, admitted
that this had affected the number of farmers who were prepared to take
part in trials.

Ms Stevens foreshadowed a possible attempt to protect the privacy of
Aventis's farmers under the new system, arguing that pre-June 21
licences may be exempt as commercial-in-confidence.

The acting regulator for GM crops, Ms Liz Cain, said she expected some
applications for commercial-in-confidence protection, but such an
argument would have to get over a "high hurdle".

Both Aventis and the other agricultural giant, Monsanto, have this
winter slashed the number of GM canola trials they will conduct in
Australia.

Both companies said this did not reflect a fall in the number of farmers
willing to be involved in GM trials.

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