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Ross Murray (centre) speaking with Australian farmers at a Victorian forum.
Ross Murray (centre) speaking with Australian farmers at a Victorian forum.
On the road with Ross and Moe

I'm in Perth at the moment. It's week 3 of being on the road with Moe Parr and Ross Murray, two farmers from North America here to share their experiences of genetically engineered (GE) crops with Australian farmers.

Moe and Ross kicked off at Yarrawonga, on the banks of the Murray River. they then travelled to Melbourne and Horsham to talk to politicians, farmers and the public about the issues surrounding GE crops. The Melbourne forum was so popular that we had to run a second forum, since the first one was fully booked out.

In Horsham, farmers were alarmed by recent news from WA that non-GE farmers will be forced to pay an end-point royalty to Monsanto if their crops are contaminated with GE material. This is even worse than the situation in the US, where many farmers have been sued by Monsanto for unwanted GE contamination. Under the WA proposals, the end-point royalty will be automatically deducted from farmers’ profits by the grain handler, Co-operative Bulk Handling (CBH).

It's things like these that are causing concern among farmers here.

The Network of Concerned Farmers is calling for strict liability laws to protect non-GE farmers from any economic losses associated with GE contamination.

The farmers have spoken at 10 or so towns now, and will soon head back to Sydney for forums across NSW. The forums have been well attended. Aussie farmers are keen to learn from mistakes that have been made in the US and Canada with GE crops.

As expected, the pro-GE lobby (specifically, Agrifood Awareness) has sought to discredit the farmers. Agrifood Awareness is funded by the biotechnology industry, the National Farmers Federation and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

The majority of farmers that attended the Victorian forums were resolutely opposed to the introduction of GE crops – and for good reasons.

Economically, GE crops don’t stack up. They cost 15% more to grow than conventional canola and yield less. Results from last year's National Variety Trials from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (the only independent trials of GE canola to be conducted in Australia) found that the best yielding GE canola variety consistently produced 9-10% less than the best yielding conventional canola.

» See the full results of the trials (PDF, 176kb).
» Dates for remaining public forums: http://www.truefood.org.au/newsandevents/?events=3

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