Later this month the moratorium on the sale of genetically modified canola seeds will be lifted, allowing farmers in New South Wales and Victoria to plant GM crops.
But groups opposed to the genetically modified plants have begun a campaign to dissuade farmers from going down the GM path.
One of the heads of Canada’s National Farmers Union (NFU) is touring Australia warning about his experiences with using GM – or GE (genetically engineered), as it is known in Canada
NFU vice-president Terry Boehm farms wheat, barley, lentils and canola on his property in south-east Saskatchewan in Canada’s mid-west.
Greenpeace and the Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) have brought him here to warn Australian farmers against planting genetically modified canola seeds.
“It’s not a magic bullet, [neither] genetic engineering nor herbicide tolerant crops are a magic bullet,” Mr Boehm said.
“Farmers might see some short-term simplification of production, but that’s all they’ll see.
“Very quickly you will have the whole country contaminated and you do that at your peril in terms of markets.”
Mr Boehm says segregation of GM and non-GM crops is impossible and farmers will have to pay hefty licence fees and royalties for seeds each year or face litigation if they do not.
Last but not least, he says Australian farmers will lose their export markets if they go ahead with GM canola.
“Farmers now are forced largely to sign technology-use agreements to pay expensive fees in order to access seeds for their canola production,” he said.
“There is no possibility essentially to grow canola that is non-GE. There are simply very few known varieties of non-GE canola available, and farmers are actually under the threat of legal action if, as farmers always have, they are saving and reusing seeds.
“This is forbidden with GE canola. The loss of markets has been another issue that farmers have had to deal with.”
The pro-GM lobby here in Australia claims that Canadian farmers have lost markets are rubbish.
They say Canadian farmers have gained new markets as a result of using GM canola.
But Mr Boehm says that is not true.
“I can’t understand how anyone could make such a claim,” he said.
“The Canadian Government has been lodging actions, in collaboration with the US Government, against the European Union to force them to open up their markets to GE canola. That is clearly a lost market.
“The Japanese, that’s been an ongoing diplomatic lobbying effort to maintain that market, Canadian farmers have lost markets as a function of wholesale adoption of GE canola.”
ABC Radio’s AM program tried to contact biotechnology companies and GM crop pioneers Monsanto and Bayer for comment this morning but there was no response.