Just last week a NSW canola farmer found Monsanto’s Roundup Ready canola growing wild along a 20 km stretch of highway near Berrigan.
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This week, Greenpeace investigated reports of stray GE canola growing in Horsham, Victoria. CropWatch coordinator Jessica Harrison and Wimmera canola farmer Geoffrey Carracher helped to test roadside canola plants.
We tested 25 plants and found that three were Roundup Ready GE canola. While this is not indicative of a large spill, like in NSW, it does provide further evidence that GE canola plants are germinating and flowering outside their designated fields.
There is nothing to stop these roadside canola plants from now contaminating traditional canola – two of the GE plants we found were growing next to a field of non-GE canola. Another concern is that Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola was genetically engineered to be resistant to their patented herbicide Roundup. This means that farmers may resort to stronger chemicals like 2-4-D to kill unwanted GE canola plants.
Jessica is adamant that since Monsanto created this new superweed, they need to take responsibility for cleaning up the mess. "Everyone is passing the buck on what to do with these weeds," she says. "Monsanto has given a very off-handed response in media interviews, saying that it's nothing to be concerned about, and that the contamination risk was 'factored in' by the regulator. It’s their patented invention and Monsanto needs to foot the bill for monitoring and cleaning up unwanted GE canola contamination."
Respected farmer Geoffrey Carracher, who served on his local shire council for many years, says he is sick of being lied to by companies like Monsanto and government departments about the ability of farmers to maintain a non-GE supply chain.
"This is exactly why growing GE canola will eventually remove choice from farmers like myself who don't want to grow it."
- Wimmera canola farmer, Geoffrey Carracher
"Roundup Ready canola is already starting to pop up all over the place. It's only a matter of time before it blows into someone's field and contaminates the whole harvest, like it has in Canada. This is exactly why growing GE canola will eventually remove choice from farmers like myself who don't want to grow it."
Last week, GrainCorp – the company that manages the canola silos – decided to reverse its decision to allow the main canola crop to be contaminated with GE material. » See this Sydney Morning Herald article
"I was facing the prospect of paying to have my own crop tested to prove it was GE-free,” said Geoffrey. “And then having to transport my crop to a silo much further away that could guarantee segregation. I'm glad the vast majority of non-GE growers will now not be disadvantaged, but we still have no legal recourse if our canola is contaminated with GE material."
This year is the first time that GE canola seed will be crushed for oil and feed, and make its way into our food, contaminating our oils, margarines, bread, sauces and ice cream completely unlabelled. Right now, the only way people can be sure they are not eating GE ingredients, is to shop organic or to buy brands listed as GREEN in the Greenpeace Truefood Guide.
But we have a small window of opportunity, while the GE crop makes up less than 3% of the total canola crop, to prevent the wholesale contamination of our fields and food. Help us take action by contacting Health Minister Nicola Roxon to honour the ALP election promise and ensure that GE crops are only released if proven to be safe.