22 November 2011
At this time of year canola fields across southern Australia resemble giant green and gold flags. These spectacular and vibrant fields’ colour is due to bright yellow canola flowers. The green and gold saturate the fields and this sight is the result of growers’ hard work and the innovation of plant breeders. The golden colour is also a warning light, a warning that canola harvest time is approaching and with it the silly season for professional anti-GM activists.
Anti GM activist groups have used the first three seasons of Australian GM canola cultivation to exploit many people’s lack of awareness about normal agricultural events at harvest time. Matthew Cossey, Chief Executive officer, CropLife Australia, says “They use emotive titles like “contamination” when expected incidents such as pollen flow, seed germination, tiny roadside spills and movement of windrowed plants occur. They argue for zero tolerance because they know it is not possible and failure to achieve it will create unnecessary and unfounded controversy.
“These activities are aimed at intimidating politicians and preventing farmers from having a choice of whether to grow GM canola. This goal is hard to understand when you consider that GM canola is a healthy and environmentally beneficial crop that has been extensively assessed by Australian regulators and has been used by our competitors for fifteen years.
“All of this is unnecessary, illogical, divisive and short-sighted. All production systems can thrive side by side as long as there are low level thresholds for the accidental movement of crops. This accidental movement is inevitable because crops share environments and storage systems.”
Mr Cossey said Australia’s ability to produce GM and non-GM crops simultaneously has been clearly demonstrated since GM canola was commercially planted three years ago. Despite activist predictions, GM and non-GM canola have been simultaneously accessing different markets since then.
“In countries where organic certification does not require zero tolerance of GM crops such as the US and Canada both GM crops and organic production systems have been rapidly adopted simultaneously.
“It is time to finish simplistic and unnecessary battles between production systems. The challenge to sustainably produce a secure food supply for the future is monumental, but not impossible. It is not going to be achieved in a courtroom and it is not going to be achieved by yelling matches mired in myth.
“The UN’s recent announcement that the global population had hit 7 billion was a pertinent reminder that the clock is ticking. If future food needs are to be met, the world will need every tool in the toolbox including organics and GM. If we don’t address our food production challenges, the results for humanity and the environment we live in do not bear thinking about.”