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Floods spread GM seed

April 4, 2011


Bob Mackley, who farms at Duchembegarra, north of Natimuk, said his paddocks have been over-run by genetically modified canola following summer flooding in the Wimmera.

A WIMMERA farmer whose paddocks have been infested by genetically modified (GM) canola washed down by the December floods says the spread of large chunks of GM seed highlights the inadequacy of Australia’s co-existence policy between GM and non-GM canola.

Bob Mackley, who farms at Duchembegarra, north of Natimuk, said measures such as adventitious presence (AP) levels of trace levels of GM material were designed for contamination by cross-pollination, not for the widespread transportation of viable seed pods.

“The canola was transported in the first floods, then when we got the rain in January, it germinated quite a substantial amount.

“I’d say it could easily be more than the prescribed levels of 0.9pc GM material.”

However, Monsanto corporate affairs lead Keryn McLean said Mr Mackley needed only to approach the GM canola volunteers as any other weed.

“For any farmer intending to plant a crop this season, it is best practice to control weeds in paddocks prior to sowing any seed, canola or otherwise,” she said.

“If Roundup Ready canola was transferred into the paddock, a number of other plants would also have been, including broadleaf weed species.”

Mr Mackley, however, said the fact the canola was resistant to glyphosate severely limited his options.

“Having these volunteers can impact my rotation, and limits my knock-down options.

“For instance, if I was to sow bean, I can’t just use a spike of glyphosate to get rid of all broadleaves prior to sowing.

“Once it is up, and in crop, it is even more difficult, if I don’t get control using the triazine group, there’s not much else to use.”

Ms McLean disagreed, saying mixes of glyphosate and broadleaf herbicides were common.

“Any herbicide that controls broad leaf weeds that are commonly mixed with Roundup are recommended in a fallow situation to control canola volunteers.

“The operations farmers undertake in controlling broadleaf weeds prior to sowing a crop and post emergence will be effective in controlling any occur of canola volunteers, including Roundup Ready canola or any other variety of herbicide tolerant canola.”

Along with the agronomic disadvantages, Mr Mackley also said he had concerns with the concept of AP full-stop, saying it impacted his marketing.

“I have not grown GM, and have no intention of doing so, with the mounting evidence that there are financial benefits to growing non-GM.”

Ms McLean said AP levels were no different to having levels of other foreign materials in the sample, such as weed seeds, however Mr Mackley said it had a large marketing disadvantage.

He also highlighted the statements farmers signed when delivering canola that their product was non-GM, saying trace levels potentially meant farmers were misrepresenting their product.

Mr Mackley said he also had concerns that down the track, Monsanto may exercise their patent rights and make farmers pay, even when there was only trace amounts of the Roundup Ready material.

‘Inevitably there will be more and more contamination and we could face the situation where Monsanto owns Australia’s canola crop.”

Ms McLean rejected this notion outright.

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