Escalating farmer conflict is poor public policy

    3 December 2013

    Tuesday 3 December 2013 (Canberra) – The plant science industry has welcomed calls for an inquiry into the post-commercialisation impacts of existing regulated GM crops.

    “Such an inquiry, if genuine in its nature, would affirm public confidence in the regulatory system and provide an opportunity for the official record to reflect the significant agronomic and environmental benefits GM cotton and canola have brought to Australian farmers,” CropLife Australia CEO, Matthew Cossey said today.

    “The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) assesses each and every human health and environmental risk that may be posed by a new GM crop before it can be licenced and commercially grown in Australia. Field trials are monitored after harvest and any risks the crop may pose are rigorously assessed. To date, all GM crops that have been approved for commercial release in Australia have been deemed as safe as their conventional counterparts.

    “Some of the issues raised jointly today by Senator Nick Xenophon and professional anti-GM activists about farmer conflict in Western Australia are important issues for Australian agriculture. However, instead of seeking to escalate conflict between farmers, it would be far more productive if Senator Xenophon examined the regulatory system at the heart of this entirely unnecessary conflict.

    “Conflict between farmers caused entirely by standards out of step with the rest of the world is something that policy makers and the agricultural sector as a whole should be working hard to avoid and address. In this case ensuring that self-regulated industries, like the organics industry, do not impose standards that create unnecessary economic risk for both certified organic and modern farmers, should be a priority for those who care about Australian farming.

    “Organic, conventional and modern farming systems can exist side-by-side in Australia as they do in the rest of the world. This is the first case of its kind and it is taking place in Australia for a reason. Australia’s organic standards are out of step with those in the European Union and the rest of the world.

    “The current organic standards in Australia are out of step with the EU and North America, and in fact the rest of the global agricultural community. This introduces avoidable complications and the potential for unnecessary conflict between farming neighbours.

    “Perhaps the energy of those interested in furthering both the organic and broader agricultural sectors may be better spent looking to fix bad regulations rather than add heat to an entirely unnecessary and falsely constructed conflict.

    “While we welcome an open and transparent inquiry into the impacts of this important agricultural technology, the scare mongering tactics aiming to escalate conflict between farmers are entirely unhelpful and should not be tolerated,” concluded Mr Cossey.

    Contact: Jessica Lee (Manager – Public Affairs)  Ph: 02 6230 6399  Mob: 0410 491 261