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Biosecurity threat as Farmers won't comply

Biosecurity threat as Farmers won't comply with record keeping for GE crops.

A survey showing almost half of US farmers won't comply with basic record-keeping for GE crops adds to doubts that it will ever be feasible for MAF to regulate co-existence of GE and non-GE agriculture in New Zealand.

A Reuters poll has found that 43 percent of US farmers said they could not comply with rules requiring more record- keeping that could be vital in controlling GE contamination. A similar breakdown in regulation in New Zealand would destroy opportunities for GE-free production and allow GE contamination to spread if the moratorium on commercial GE crops ends in October.

The Reuters survey adds to international concern that farmers unable to comply with even basic controls for GE crops will increase the threat of contamination of food from GE products banned for human consumption either because they are allergenic or because they contain toxic pharmaceuticals. Recent media reports say that US authorities have already been forced to burn hundreds of hectares of crops after contamination by nearby pharmaceutical-producing corn.

In the next few months the New Zealand government is scheduled to release MAF's report on how it will manage coexistence of GM/ GE- Free production. The Ministry of the Environment is also to report on the National Biotech Strategy.

"New Zealand's biotech industry, and government regulators must explain why the believe they can guarantee compliance by New Zealand farmers when that is proving impossible to do overseas, even in the US", says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

Failure to ensure farmers adhere to basic controls like record keeping would represent a serious bio-security and economic threat if it occurred in New Zealand.

Some growers surveyed said that monitoring paperwork would add a few cents a bushel to their production costs,.. "It would be cost prohibitive, and there is no incentive (for farmers) to do that," said Delmer Keiser, a Kansas corn, soybean and wheat farmer.

MAF are exploring incentives to ensure compliance to controls on GE crops, which might include making farmers and biotech companies fully Liable for contamination of soil or other crops.

International concern about GE contamination has increased after tests showed U.S. corn shipped to Japan last month may have been contaminated with StarLink- a biotech corn variety approved only for animal feed.

" Food crops have already had to be destroyed in the US because they were contaminated by pharmaceutical-producing plants. A disastrous breakdown in containment is more likely if farmers cannot be guaranteed to obey regulatory controls," says Mr Carapiet.

The Reuters survey was based on random, personal interviews at the meeting, and does not weight responses by state, size or other criteria. The results provide an early indication of whether farmers will plant more or less genetically modified crops than the previous year.
Farmers signalled that for the first time they will plant less Bt corn - which is set to fall by almost 4%. Overall, biotech plantings across all U.S. crops will rise by just 2% percent, according to farmers surveyed, marking a dramatic slowdown from the rapid increases in planting soon after GE crops were introduced to U.S. farmers in 1996.

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