6 Oct 2011

Campaigners say crop failures nail in coffin for GE production

6:59 pm on 6 October 2011

Anti-genetic engineering campaigners say genetically modified crop failures in Western Australia are a nail in the coffin for GE production.

And they say the Government here should be taking note of that and falling GE crop production in other parts of the world.

GE-Free New Zealand is reading some significance into the failure of genetically modified canola grown in drought conditions in Western Australia.

President Claire Bleakley says the state's Agriculture Minister has announced that canola yields and quality suffered severely because of weather conditions and he was advised that none of the GM canola grown there had been sold.

She says what the Minister said is that the non GM canola, which is about 95% of the Australian crop, had exceptionally high yields and they were able to sell all of it.

Ms Bleakley says it shows how badly GM canola will perform in drought conditions.

She says there has also been a seven to 10% drop in planting genetically modified crops in the United States.

Ms Bleakley says the New Zealand government needs to be aware of that trend and resist pressure to allow GE production here.

She says New Zealand has to preserve its GE-free status because that is what's in demand.

US study questions controls on GM canola plants

An American study into escaped GM canola plants has raised the issue of whether there are adequate controls in place.

The study, published by the online journal PLoS ONE, reports that herbicide resistant canola has been found growing along road sides across North Dakota.

It also found that the escaped plants could hybridize with each other to create new combinations of transgenic traits.

The authors say their findings, more than 10 years after the initial release of genetically engineered canola, raise questions of whether adequate oversight and monitoring protocols are in place in the United States to track the environmental impact of biotech products.

However, Australian experts contacted by New Zealand's science media centre say there is nothing new or surprising in the American study.

Professor Peter Langridge of the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at Adelaide University says canola is known to grow along roadsides in many parts of the world and the GM canola is no different from normal canola in that respect.

Professor Rick Roush of the School of Land and Environment at the University of Melbourne says the American study presents no evidence that GM canola is any more weedy or problematic than non-GM canola, or that any harm has resulted.