West Australian political and farm leaders have received an open letter from 21 Japanese consumer organisations and many high profile individuals requesting that WA remain GMO-free.
Japan is the main purchaser of West Australian canola with a value of $100million/year and Japanese consumers explained their concerns about the potential health and environmental hazards of GMOs.
This information is hot on the heels of the three main Australian poultry companies, Inghams, Bartter Steggles and Baiada announcing a commitment to stop using GM-feed.
The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF), a national farmer group opposing the release of GM crops until risks are managed fairly, claim this is essential evidence for the GM debate in a critical decision making time. The NCF believe that if GM crops are released, contamination of non-GM crops will occur and market rejection will cause economic loss.
"Farmers market to a consumer driven market and we must listen to our customers. If they say No to GMO, we must give them the products they want," said Julie Newman, Newdegate farmer and National Spokesperson.
" If WA adopts GM crops it will be too difficult and too expensive to segregate GM from non-GM and you don't have to be too smart to want to avoid a market consumers are rejecting."
"Any weakening of the moratorium will be an injustice to both farmers and consumers as both could lose the choice to avoid GM crops and food."
The WA government has imposed a ban on GM crops after a bipartisan committee thoroughly assessed the economic risks involved. Mr Kim Chance, the Labour Minister for Agriculture is firm that the ban for GM canola will remain. However, the shadow Minister for Agriculture, Mr Paul Omodei, has announced that Liberal will review the moratorium if the coalition win the 26th February state election.
"If Liberal win, it is likely that very soon there will be exemptions from the ban that will allow GM crops to be grown and if so, it will be near impossible for farmers to market a range of products as GM-free. Mr Omodei has refused to give a commitment to ensure farmers not wanting to grow GM crops will not be adversely impacted by their introduction."
"Why should non GM farmers compensate the GM industry or pay for others negligence?" asked Mrs Newman. "Rather than threatening to review bans, politicians should be working on plans to be sure the GM companies are liable for economic loss, not farmers."
Two canola varieties are licensed for release, Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola and Bayer Cropscience's Invigor canola, both bred to be resistant to the companies own chemicals. Mrs Newman claims GM promotion is "a scam", explaining that despite promotions the benefit for GM canola is only chemical resistance but the majority of WA's non-GM canola crop is already chemical resistant. The NCF believe the risks far outweigh even the benefits promoted.
"Farmers are being deliberately misled to believe there is no market risk when there is a unprecedented global rejection for GM foods. We are also being misled over benefits, alternatives, risks and risk management, yet the NCF is constantly under attack by a well orchestrated slander campaign for exposing the truth."
Canola seed is used for processing as oil for human consumption and canola meal for stock feed. The WA Department of Agriculture reported that Japan accounted for 84% of West Australia's canola exports. WA exports 90% of the total canola production and WA is one of the main canola growing states accounting for 25% of Australia's production. The average value of canola is estimated at $350/tonne. The highest production recorded in WA was just less than 1 million tonnes in 1999/2000. Prior to this open letter being received, Japan was considered relatively accepting of GM canola and classed as a low risk category for GM rejection. In many countries, including Australia, increased consumer rejection has led to wholesalers and retailers declaring a GM-free policy which effectively creates market demand for non-GM products.
"We will not vote for any party that is considering removing the rights of farmers and consumers in order to promote the greedy GM sector, and will certainly pursue legal action if decision makers neglect their duty of care," said Mrs Newman.
"We need a commitment from the coalition government that they are not irresponsible and would not allow GM crops to be grown without addressing the serious risks and unfair liability issues identified."
Date: 10 February, 2005
An open letter to West Australian political leaders and farmers.
We, the undersigned consumer groups in Japan, sincerely request that the government and both political parties of Western Australia maintain the current moratorium on the commercial release of GMO canola.
As you are aware, Japan is a major importer of canola oil from Western Australia. Some media reports in your country claim that Japanese consumers are not concerned about GMO’s and that we accept GM canola. However, Japanese consumers are seriously concerned about the potential health and environmental hazards of GMOs. We believe that there is solid scientific basis for our concern.
You maybe aware that there has recently been serious public concern regarding GM canola growing wild around ports in Japan. This herbicide resistant GM canola has spread as a result of seed spillage from Canadian canola imports. It shows how difficult it is to contain GM canola once it is introduced. Our very strong preference is for GM free canola and we therefore request that Western Australia keep the GM moratorium in place.
We sincerely hope that by explaining our non-GMO requirements now, you will choose conventional (non-GMO) seeds and not to grow GM crops in your state.
From: Consumers Union of Japan
Organisations: No! GMO Campaign, Citizens’ Biotechnology Information Center, Green Consumer’s Co-operative Union, Consumer’s Co-operative Union “Kirari”, Safety Foods Network, OTOWA-RICE group, ATTAC Hokkaidow, Wappa, Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union, Citizens’ Network Hokkaido, Yotsuba-Association Chubu, No GM Chubu Association, Michinaga, Agrinet Aichi, The Association to Preserve the Earth, Pasteurized Milk Consumer Network in Hyogo, Aichi-Coop, ATTAC Japan, Japan Organic Agriculture Association, Anti-GM Rice Farmers Association (Total: 21 organizations)
Individuals: Junko Kameda, Ohori Makoto, Seiko Yoshida, Tomizuka Tomoko, Yosihito Hasegawa, Mituko Ogawa, Miyow Ogawa, Komatsu Tomomi (Total: 8 individuals)