2.A 'final' warning from Canadian farmers
EXTRACT: First the propagandists said that genetically engineered plants wouldn't cross with weeds. When they did, they said the new hybrids wouldn't persist. They are unstable plants that die out after a year or two, so no need to worry. Now, new research from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists provides the first report of persistence and apparent introgression (stable incorporation of genes from one gene pool into another).
The researchers found the herbicide resistance gene from Brassica napus moved into the gene pool of its weedy relative, Brassica rapa, under normal commercial field conditions. Persistence of the HR trait occurred during a six-year period. (item 1)
1.Herbicide-resistant genes found to persist in weeds
Paul Hanley, Special to The StarPhoenix The StarPhoenix, February 19 2008
It's not supposed to happen, but it does. Genetically modified canola plants have been found to interbreed with a weed, producing a hybrid wild mustard that is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup).
Significantly, these new hybrid weeds are persistent.
Millions are spent on propaganda to calm the nerves of irrational consumers and other overwrought folks worried about the environment, those who fear there is something potentially dangerous about genetic engineering. The main thrust of the campaign is to offer calm and reasoned responses from scientists meant to allay any and all concerns by establishing the 'fact' that everything done in the name of biotechnology is perfectly safe.
First the propagandists said that genetically engineered plants wouldn't cross with weeds. When they did, they said the new hybrids wouldn't persist. They are unstable plants that die out after a year or two, so no need to worry. Now, new research from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists provides the first report of persistence and apparent introgression (stable incorporation of genes from one gene pool into another).
The researchers found the herbicide resistance gene from Brassica napus moved into the gene pool of its weedy relative, Brassica rapa, under normal commercial field conditions. Persistence of the HR trait occurred during a six-year period.
Contrary to the propaganda from the biotechnology industry, the scientific community is not entirely at ease with genetic engineering, and for good reason.
Given that transgenic canola is grown over millions of acres across Canada and around the world, it is highly likely that herbicide-resistance genes have escaped to weeds in multiple locations. This is of great concern to organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), since it means the emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds could be widespread.
The UCS believes the escape of transgenes into the wild is common. They point out, for example, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently fined the Scotts company with the maximum penalty of $500,000 for allowing an experimental turf grass for golf courses to become established in the wild in the U.S.
Scotts' negligence allowed creeping bentgrass, which was genetically engineered to tolerate Roundup, to escape from field trials in Oregon and interbreed with wild relatives. This is the company's second offence, reports the UCS. Scotts was also fined in 2004 for not notifying the USDA on two occasions that the wind had blown seeds out of its test plots. The company agreed at that time to take additional steps to control the escaped bentgrass, but apparently did not succeed.
The transfer and persistence of herbicide-resistant genes in weedy species -- and the potential costs to farmers, other landowners, and the environment -- is one of the major concerns of the UCS about growing these crops.
The organization of scientists is not opposed to biotechnology, however they do oppose the sometimes cavalier attitude with which this new technology is deployed. They believe there is insufficient oversight by regulatory bodies to ensure safety, a concern that is confirmed by a growing number of reports of genes escaped into the wild or unapproved transgenic grains entering the food supply.
2.A 'final' warning
Country News, February 18 2008
Two Canadian farmers have warned that once Australia introduces GM canola, the country would be 'GM forever'.
Farmers from Berrigan, Savernake, Finley, Jerilderie and Tocumwal along with Member for Murray-Darling John Williams and farmers from surrounding areas attended the forum at Corowa.
Guest speakers Terry Boehm, a grain farmer and vice-president of the Canadian Farmers Union, and Arnold Taylor, a farmer of 25 years from the Saskatchewan province of Canada, shared their experience of growing GM canola.
'We didn't realise what we were getting into,' Mr Boehm said.
'Canada is now a GM country. If we had a choice, we wouldn't have become a GM nation.
'Contamination takes place rapidly, there are many legal disputes over responsibility and ownership and we lost the European (export) market soon after GM canola was introduced to Canada. It was ultimately the end for our crops.'
The moratorium on planting GM canola expires at the end of February, paving the way for commercial production with the approval of Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald.
The forum was told that before Australia commits to growing genetically-engineered herbicide-tolerant canola, it has an opportunity to learn from Canada, where it has been grown commercially for more than a decade.
Both Canadian farmers said they had experienced 'widespread contamination' of their crops by genetically modified canola.
'If you go down this road, you will be a GM country forever,' Mr Taylor said.
'Australia, being a continent and non-GM, has a huge marketing advantage over other countries. There is no way we can separate GM from non-GM now in Canada,' he said.
Wagga-based lawyer Kevin Foley said he was very concerned about the legal implications and liability in regards to GM seed.
'There are enormous areas for litigation, such as farmers suing farmers for contamination. We are opening a Pandora's box in litigation if we go down the GM path,' Mr Foley said.