Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Farmers voice their GM wheat concerns

TWO Canadian farmers arrived in Merredin on Sunday afternoon to speak at a public meeting and share their experiences with genetically modified (GM) crops. Grains and livestock farmer Peter Eggers from Alberta and wheat farmer Matt Gehl from Saskatchewan are from the Canadian National Farmers Union (NFU) and explained to the local community why Canada rejected GM wheat in 2002 and shared their concerns about the future for wheat farmers in Australia.
Mr Eggers is one of 83 plaintiffs currently challenging the validity of agricultural technology company Monsanto’s seed patents in a US court.
He explained that many farmers in Canada were trying to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s GM seed.
He was an early adopter of GM canola but was later investigated by Monsanto for patent breaches after he decided to stop growing GM canola.
In regards to wheat, Monsanto plans to introduce GM wheat varieties but Mr Eggers said 82 per cent of the international customers said they didn’t want GM wheat.
He said it would destroy the wheat market if they were to go ahead with supplying GM wheat that had no demand.
Mr Gehl is a young fourth generation wheat farmer and is seriously concerned about the ability of his generation of farmers to have a voice in the future of agriculture.
He talked about the voice of farmers being marginalised as a consequence of increasing corporate control over agricultural research and policy.
Mr Gehl said Monsanto and other corporate companies were taking control over the whole food supply, not only of the seeds but the genes as well by using patents and courts to enforce their control by keeping the industry privatised.
Cunderdin wheat and canola farmer Ian James and Julie Newman from the Network of Concerned Farmers also discussed their concerns for GM crops in Australia.
Mr James discussed his concerns of GM crops when he found GM contamination on his farm last year.
He said GM canola from his neighbouring farm contaminated his paddock after storms and heavy rainfalls which were proof that segregation or co-existence of GM and non-GM crops was not possible.
In WA, GM wheat is an increasingly contentious issue and with GM crop trials in Merredin, the issue is very close to home.
Data shows that despite 80 per cent of overseas markets rejecting GM wheat, Australia is on the fast track to becoming the first country globally to commercialise GM wheat.
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