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Organic farmers fear impact of commercial-scale GM crops

Mon, Jun 24 2002 12:01 AM AEST
Organic farmers fear they could be put out of business if commercial-scale genetically modified (GM) crops are allowed in Australia.
Biotechnology company Monsanto has lodged an application for a license to grow commercial crops of GM canola.
Until now all GM crops planted in Australia have been confined to small areas for field trials.
Biological Farmers of Australia spokesman Scott Kinnear, says organic canola production has been wiped out in other countries with the introduction of large-scale commercial GM crops.
"There's an enormous difference going from a field trial where the area of crop varies between one hectare and at the most 20 hectares," he said.
"We can now see paddocks planted and in some parts of Australia the areas planted in one paddock go up to 1,000 or more hectares in size."
However, the biotechnology industry is assuring organic farmers they have nothing to fear.
Alex Allars, from the Life Sciences Network, says GM crops offer many advantages to farmers, including reducing herbicide use and higher yields.
She says GM crops can co-exist with organic crops.
"Keep in mind that these crops have been in the trial stage for about five years, they've identified any possible risks and what they're now doing is managing these risks to ensure there is no environmental hazard," she said.
"The farmer who may be growing an organic crop next door isn't going to be possibly threatened and their livelihood isn't going to be put at stake."