GM crop trial undeterred by legal threat

West Australian farming groups say genetically modified canola crop trials won’t be hindered by threats of legal action from a lobby group.

The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) revealed last week it was preparing to send letters to GM-trial farmers outlining their legal liabilities if non-GM crops are contaminated during the trial that is due to start in May.

The WA Farmers Federation (WAFF) and Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association (PGA) have labelled the threat a “scare tactic” which would not intimidate farmers.

WAFF chief executive Andy McMillan said farmers selected for the trial had been subjected to stringent tests, including those to prevent contamination.

“The conditions on these farmers are heavy and they are going to have to display a high level of professionalism to be be quality assured,” McMillan said.

“I think once they have gone through that process, a letter from a minority group of agitators threatening legal action isn’t going to make an impact on the trial at all.”

NCF spokeswoman Julie Newman said the group was concerned Australian non-GM farmers would lose markets and be forced to pay fees for using a patented product they did not want and could not avoid.

However PGA grains spokesman Leon Bradley said once GM canola seed became available, thousands of WA farmers would adopt the technology.

He called claims contamination would cost markets as “completely bogus”.

“Every year since they introduced GM canola in 1996, Canadian farmers have taken a bigger share of the market,” Bradley said.

“Part of the reasons for the trial in Western Australia is to ensure that our system for segregating our GM from non GM has integrity.”

WA opposition agriculture spokesman Mick Murray on Wednesday said the GM canola trial was cloaked with uncertainty and called on the state government to provide compensation to non-GM farmers when crops were contaminated.

The GM canola trial is due to start this winter and finish when the crops are harvested in summer.

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