1 May 2014. Source:

 Australian organic standards make GM and organic coexistence difficult: scholar

Coexistence between organic farmers and those that grow genetically modified crops is a big challenge but it is possible in Australia.

That’s according to Nuffield Scholar and Western Australian farmer from Wongan Hills. Jemma Salder.

Supported by the GRDC, Ms Salder recently travelled to a number of countries looking at how the industries worked with each other.

While she says the two can coexist, she suggests the strict zero tolerance standard for the presence of GM material in Australian organic produce may need to be relaxed if the organic industry is to survive.

“I travelled to the US and Canada and it’s dominated by GM crops, but over there the organic farmers are qualified on a process based system, so the presence of GM itself in the end organic product will not affect the status of the organic operation,” she says.

In England she says organic producers had 0.9 per cent tolerance for GM material.

“In Australia organic producers have to adhere to a zero per cent tolerance to the presence of GM at any stage of the production process, it really makes it a difficult tolerance to stick to, zero per cent tolerance in life is almost impossible, especially in agriculture.

“That really places, I think, the organic producers in a difficult position.

“It’s easy to say from the outside looking in, I’m not an organic producer, but I think that a zero per cent tolerance in agriculture is just not sustainable.

“We’ve all got to be flexible, it’s up to them what decisions they make but I think they’ll be perhaps putting their industry at jeopardy if they don’t have a serious look at it.”

She says GM and organic growers in the countries she visited seemed to have a more harmonious relationship than their counterparts in Australia.

“It’s really important that we can make the best business decisions for our properties, but not affect our neighbours as much as we can,” she says.