Archive for August, 2014



INDOMITABLE Kojonup farmer Michael Baxter has been crowned winner of the WA Pastoralists and Graziers Association’s (PGA) Achievement Award for 2014.

Mr Baxter received the prestigious prize at the PGA’s annual convention dinner at the Crown Perth Casino tonight before about 150 guests.

The award recognises the humble Kojonup farmer’s continuing legal battle against his neighbour Steve Marsh over genetically modified (GM) canola use and property rights.

In the decision handed down in late May, Justice Ken Martin comprehensively rejected Mr Marsh’s claim for $85,000 compensation and permanent injunction to stop his neighbour growing or swathing GM canola.

In June, Mr Marsh and his wife Sue announced they would appeal the decision, with the grounds for the appeal lodged on July 25.

The PGA grains committee backed Mr Baxter’s campaign from the outset, in line with its support for individual farmers being able to access profitable technologies.

In his presentation speech, PGA president Tony Seabrook described Mr Baxter as a strong supporter of new cropping technology. He said the Kojonup farmer “remains instrumental in championing the rights of farmers to grow legal and safe crops”.

“Nowhere was this more evident than during the recent Supreme Court of Western Australia case where an organic farmer in Kojonup tried to stop his neighbour from growing GM canola,” he said.

“Our winner played a pivotal role in this court case because he was the defendant. His unyielding determination to not back down to the bullying tactics and relentless persecution from anti-GM groups placed a heavy toll on his professional and personal life.

“Thanks to his efforts, growers in Western Australia are not restricted in the choice of what they grow and how they grow it.

“This attitude and sheer doggedness in the face of adversity, exemplifies the very foundations of what this Association stands for.”



TASMANIAN agriculture is set to remain free of genetically modified organisms for at least five more years, with the State Government opting to extend a longstanding GMO ban.

The Bill tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday has received qualified support from the state’s peak farming body, beekeepers and the Greens.

Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the Bill took into account the findings of last year’s review by the Department, which considered 160 public submissions and new market research.

“The review demonstrated that there is currently no imperative to change from having a moratorium,” he said.

“The Liberal Government believes that a five-year moratorium is a commonsense approach that strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of today and the possibilities of tomorrow.”

Mr Rockliff said the moratorium would be again reviewed prior to its expiry date in 2019.

In January the former state government announced the 13-year moratorium on GM food crops would be continued indefinitely.

While hailed by exporters of high-end products, the move was condemned by the TFGA and poppy growers who wanted the possibility of future access to GMOs.

TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said while the Liberals’ decision on a five-year moratorium was better than an indefinite ban, opinion was divided within the farming sector over the use of GMOs.

“Research commissioned by the previous government confirmed the fact that remaining GM-free comes at a cost to Tasmanian farmers,” she said.

“The government must recognise this impact on farmers’ overall returns.

“We need to be open to reassessment of the situation as new technologies and products are developed, and as markets change.”



6 August 2014. Source:

The U.K.’s Rothamsted Research is set to harvest a genetically modified oilseed in two to three weeks for use in fish farming.

The GM camelina oilseed will be the result of 15 years of research and about 2 million pounds ($3.4 million) of government support, Johnathan Napier, lead scientist on the project, said by phone from Hitchin, England, today. It’s the first U.K. field trial of a crop genetically modified for a consumer benefit, he said. This harvest will be in “kilos, not tons of seeds. Everything is experimental.”

The trial is in intended to show GM plants can replace fish oil derived from the sea. About 1 million metric tons of fish oil is taken from the sea every year, and 80 percent is used in fish farming, Napier said. “From our perspective, the easiest and most pressing need for this particular GM crop is fish farming because fish stocks are in decline and the global population is increasing.”

The camelina oilseed, a cousin of canola, will be used to produce fish oil for a salmon feeding trial at the Institute of Aquaculture on the campus of the University of Stirling, Scotland, Napier said. “We still have to do final analysis to find levels of oil in the seed. Everything looks promising.”


The West Australian, August 11, 2014. Source:

The State Government is moving rapidly to scrap laws that give WA the power to veto local farms growing genetically modified crops approved by Commonwealth authorities.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston signalled the death knell for the laws at the Liberal Party State conference at the weekend.

Mr Baston said Cabinet had agreed to a scheduled review of WA’s GM Crops Free Areas Act.

He indicated strongly that the laws would be repealed once the review was completed, as part of moves to cut “unnecessary” red tape in agriculture.

The Liberal Party’s rush to repeal the Act comes in the knowledge that if Labor gained power it would stop farmers planting GM canola.



A GREATER effort is needed from farmers to improve mainstream attitudes towards genetically modified (GM) crops, says Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia chairman and NSW Farmers guest speaker Ken Matthews.

He said GM crops had many benefits for consumers and the environment, as well as farmers.

“I’m a believer in agricultural biotechnology, I think it’s just so important for our future that it’s time people took a position on bio technology,” Mr Matthews said.

He started by explaining what he said were two truths.

“I think biotechnology is absolutely critical factor for the success of farming in Australia and is the single most important single issue over the next couple of decades.

“(And) it’s certainly a pretty good opportunity to lift productivity.”

GM’s growth has been rapid, with 98 per cent of sugar wet grown in the US being GM just three years after the technology being released in that market.

Likewise, in Australia GM cotton, which has been available since 1996, makes up 99pc of our production.

“Or if you look at the canola figures in the four years from 2008 to 2012 farm income benefits of $27 million (have been realised) for Australian growers,” Mr Matthews said.

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council was set up in 2012 as an industry initiative which aims to improve understanding of the potential benefits of agricultural biotechnology and ensure that farmers, if they wish, can access these technologies.

“We aren’t I in the business of advocacy, but we are in the business of developing and providing factual evidence and data that might assist that debate,” he said.

Examples he used to demonstrate what biotechnology was already doing for agriculture included rapid grow salmon, water efficient wheat, pesticide reduction, fire blight resistant apples weren’t off the market, and rust resistance cereals were also “very close to the end of the pipeline”.

He also referred to consumer benefits, which he said “is something we should be doing more about”.

These included the removal of saturated fats from food, removal of allergens, increased dietary fibre, increased vitamin availability and even non-browning apples.

Mr Matthews was keen to see greater public support from farmers for GM crops because it potentially reduced farm input costs, faster, more accurate diagnostic tests, improvements to quality and consistency and also improvement of novel features such as colour and taste.

“All of these things are becoming available right now.”

However, environmental benefits were the biggest factor he felt could help improve the understanding and acceptance of GM crops.

“If the community can see benefits for them as well as for producers then they will be inclined to be more supportive,” he said.

This included feral pest control, weed management, environment clean up and biodegradable packaging.

A concern often raised was who benefits financially from this technology?

“Isn’t it just the big end of town, well that’s true. It is a very profitable, and I think it will become an even more profitable business into the future. Even the technology start-ups have to align themselves with some of the big end of town to get their products registered,” he said.

“But also there are benefits for producers… To consumers and public benefits and environment benefits.”

Mr Matthews explained that part of this education was also helping people to understand that Australia’s regulatory systems are among the best in the world.

“I think we have to… acknowledge risks and use science and good governance to manage those risks and our regulatory system is looked on by others as being a very good example of doing that.”

“The thing that really want to leave with you is that we really need farmers to stand up about this.”

The first step was to change public, consumer, environmental and media attitudes.

“I think we need to be very respectful of differences of opinion about this,” he said.

“We need to challenge those attitudes by reasoned argument, by persuasion, by producing evidence and not by shouting.”

The four steps he believes need to be done are:

1. It’s incumbent on those people who see the potential in biotechnology to build understanding of its benefits;

2. Confidence also needs building in the regulatory regime in Australia

3. Trust needs building around biotechnology

4. Ethical concerns need to be respected.

He also said the regulatory process could be simplified and moratoriums in some States needed reviewing because “they’ve not been put in place for reasons of conscience”.

“We have an instant regulatory systems that can deal with the safety and risk misuses perfectly well without a moratorium.”