The organic advantage

SPECIAL UPDATE:???GE Canola and the organic sector?

*NSW & Victoria to allow GE canola – what are the implications?
*BFA Subcommittee calls for input?
*Canadian Farmers Tour Underway

What are the implications of GE canola release in 2008

An expanding organic industry will face a new round of GM related hurdles on the back of last year’s green light on GM canola production from NSW and Victorian Governments.

Despite the efforts of the many groups around Australia opposing the release of GE canola, including the BFA which commissioned a major submission into the impacts and concerns about GE canola release, the State Governments decided in favour of the GE industry. In Victoria the advisory panel reported that consumers can access GE free food via organic foods and recommended that the State Government increase support for the organic sector. This is little comfort given the immediate impacts this year that will flow through to the organic sector if GE canola is grown.

For the first time the processing sector that uses organic grains from domestic sources will have to be very careful to ensure that product has not been contaminated in the supply chain that will handle GE, conventional and organic grains. The increased cost of testing, auditing and verification borne by organic processing companies will be a significant issue. In subsequent years, if GE canola is grown, we can expect farm to farm contamination through cross fertilisation, machinery use and transport systems used by the supply chain. Organic farmers will have to be particularly careful about the use of contractors who bring machinery on to their properties.

Victoria and NSW Governments have said that the normal commercial contracts that exist in the grains industry will be the mechanism for the growing and handling of GE canola. This means the grower will be bound by a contract upon purchasing GE seeds and will also be bound by the contract signed upon delivery of grain.?

We have not seen any details about the GE seed purchase contracts but based upon overseas experience they will require the farmer to assume liability for the use of the GE seed. We doubt whether this contract will impose any requirements re buffer zones, notification to neighbours or contractors who come on to their properties. The State Governments have confirmed they will not be tracking or making public the locations of GE canola crops. This means that it will be difficult if not impossible for grain growers concerned about GE contamination to know if they are at risk from nearby GE canola crops.

With regard to the delivery contract, the grower will be required to declare if the canola is GE and the variety. The supply chain will then have in place contractual obligations to segregate to a tolerance level of contamination of 0.9%. This may be sufficient for some conventional grains sold, but for organic and those that are intending to market products as GE free, this will not be acceptable. It is our view that the planting of GE canola will see significant costs and operational stress placed on the grains supply chain and in particular end purchasers of product if they require GE free status.

BFA GE Subcommittee Calls for Input

The BFA GE subcommittee is keen to hear from industry members your ideas about how the BFA should proceed to campaign against the planting of GE canola in Australia. We will be putting a strategy to the BFA board shortly including a plan to raise additional funds from the organic industry to enable us to increase the effectiveness of this campaign. Please send your ideas to

For media comment and enquiries contact Scott Kinnear on 0419 881 729.

Canadian Farmers Tour Underway - Canadian experience of Genetically Modified (GM) Canola

Australia is about to commit to growing genetically modified (GM) herbicide tolerant canola. This public forum is an important opportunity to talk directly with farmers from Canada, where GM canola has been grown commercially for more than a decade. Speakers will discuss issues such as segregation of non-GM and GM canola, liability concerns and the effect GM canola has had on Canadian markets.
Mr Terry Boehm, Vice President of the Canadian Farmers Union?
Mr Arnold Taylor, Farmer of 25 years from the Saskatchewan province of Canada.

Marong Hall Thursday 7th Feb 7pm
High St, Marong?
Hosted by Network of Concerned Farmers (
For more information contact Helen Chambers 03 5435 2216

Open Forum Melbourne – Friday 8th Feb
Main Meeting Room
60L Building
60 Leicester St
Hosted by MAdGE (Mothers Against Genetic Engineering) and GeneEthics Network
For more information contact GeneEthics Network on 1300 133 868

South Australia
10-12 February
Public Forum - Sunday 10th
Rymill Hall
enter from Cameron St through McCorquindale Park
Hosted by Network of Concerned Farmers
For more information contact Jeffrey Carracher on 0353866261 or 0428 316 901

Western Australia
12-14 February
Open Breakfast Meeting – Wednesday 13th
East Perth
Hosted by Organic Growers Assoc WA
For more information contact Tracey Eaton on 0402 137 376

Your Organic Advantage
Editor: Holly Vyner

Ph: 07 3350 5716 (International +61 7 3350 5716)