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Court says crop at no GM risk

Environmentalists have voiced their concerns surrounding the unknown threat genetically modified foods have on the natural environment following a unique Supreme Court ruling last week.

June 3, 2014 3:06am

GVEG president John Pettigrew.


Environmentalists have voiced their concerns surrounding the unknown threat genetically modified foods have on the natural environment following a unique Supreme Court ruling last week.

Western Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh sued his neighbour Michael Baxter, alleging he lost his organic certification for more than half his farm after GM canola drifted onto his land from Mr Baxter’s property.

The court ruled against Mr Marsh, stating there was no evidence of any genetic transference risk by the GM canola.

Goulburn Murray environment group chairman John Pettigrew said genetically modified plants or ‘‘super-plants’’ posed a possible threat to organic or native species.

‘‘Our worry is some super-plants are a risk to our native environment and landscapes,’’ Mr Pettigrew said.

‘‘We see genetically modified foods (as being) similar to cane toads purely because of the risk if they escaped into our native vegetation.’’

Mr Pettigrew said a GM plant’s advantage could be a hindrance if the need to control it arose.

‘‘If they are herbicide-resistant it reduces the way we can control them if they escape,’’ he said.

Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president Brett Hosking said the case was unfortunate for the farmers involved, who were once good friends.

‘‘Discussions on genetically modified foods have a lot of emotion, but we have to discuss the emotion along with the facts,’’ Mr Hosking said.

‘‘It’s an opportunity for organic regulators to look at their certification standards.’’

Mr Hosking said GM crops had scientific research and test procedures that proved they were safe for consumers, and people needed to remember GM crops had strict guidelines.

‘‘It goes before federal, state and sometimes government regulators,’’ he said.

He also said farmers who had chosen GM crops should respect their surrounds and be open with their community prior to planting.

Safe Food Foundation director Scott Kinnear said legislation needed to change.

‘‘State and federal governments have continuously stated that the solution to any GM contamination events is common law,’’ he said.

‘‘This has clearly failed and demonstrates that the law has not kept up with new technologies such as GM.’’

For more, see today's Country News.

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