First Australian farmer falls prey to GE contamination
The first confirmed case of genetically engineered (GE) contamination in a field of commercial canola has struck a Victorian farmer. The incident opens up a legal mine-field for farmers and threatens Australian export markets.
Geoffrey Carracher, a Canola farmer from Wimmera, accepted a Greenpeace offer to test his canola seeds at an independent lab. The seeds were found to be contaminated with Bayer's Liberty Link gene at a level of 0.5%. This is 50 times higher than the original GE contamination found in June.
Alarmingly, the 'Grace' seeds he purchased were also sold to farmers across three states: NSW, Victoria and South Australia, creating serious legal and financial problems for them.
"I am devastated. My 64 hectare crop worth $48,000 is now at risk. Any farmers who sowed Grace canola face the same risk and need to get their crop tested," said Mr Carracher.
Greenpeace has begun testing canola seeds for GE contamination because State Governments, seed companies and the biotech industry have failed to take decisive action to stop the spread of GE.
"Testing seed samples from farmers should have been done months ago, by industry and government," said Greenpeace GE campaigner Jeremy Tager. "Laboratory analysis takes 3-5 days. Contaminated canola varieties could have been identified within a matter of a few weeks, and a plan developed for protecting farmers and our food shortly after that."
"The GE industry insists that we must all accept this sort of contamination, when it is a direct result of their incompetence and lack of care. They want to convince us that we can 'be a little bit pregnant', in reality any level of contamination threatens Australia's GE free status," said Tager.
Greenpeace opposes the release of genetically engineered plants into the environment because it will create a new form of biological pollution that is extremely difficult to control and whose impacts are virtually unknown.
Mr Carracher, who is dedicated to being and remaining a GE-free farmer, wants the company that owns the GE product to be held accountable.
"I want Bayer to take responsibility - they own the patent and they get the profit, so it's only fair that they should be liable for what happens to farmers like me."
Greenpeace proposes an action plan that would address the current crisis. It includes: comprehensive testing of seed stocks; a farmer protection fund to cover farmers' costs, and strict liability for GE products, so that holders of the patent are held responsible for harm and contamination caused by their product.
A copy of the laboratory test results is downloadable from the link below. Please note: These tests were carried out by the AgriQuality GMO Services lab in Melbourne. They are an independent, accredited laboratory with no affiliation to Greenpeace.