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Grain group concerned over GM liability

(Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Australian Broadcasting Co., 08/14/03:

The Australian Grain Harvesters Association is recommending its members refuse to harvest genetically modified crops. The Association represents 20 percent of harvesters, and at its annual general meeting in South Australia, 50 members unanimously approved the motion.

President Brett Drysdale says members want to see a better model for GM and conventional crops co-existing, because they don't want to be sued for contamination.

"We aren't opposed to GM crops, we just want to see the model for co-existence, get it right the first time. We basically are saying to them at this stage these are some problems, and if you don't address these problems you could be very well be in trouble with compensation, liability, litigation.

"So we are just making the recommendation to our members at this stage the way the situation is at the moment, for their own best interests, not to do it."

The Australian Grain Harvesters Association represents around 600 contract harvesters Australia wide, and about 20 percent of all grain contract harvesters in Australia. It was formed in 1973.

While contractors may refuse to harvest GM crops, it seems insurance companies may also refuse to protect them.

There's already evidence that agricultural insurers have started excluding cover for damages relating to any genetically modified crop or organism. Wesfarmers Federation Insurance policies now include exclusions for "liability that might arise from experimenting, trialling, and the manufacture or import of any GM substance or organism."

The policy also refuses to give cover for any "personal injury or damage to property caused directly or indirectly from any genetically engineered substance or organism."

Victorian farmer, Denise Acocks immediately contacted her local agent when she read her new policy conditions.

"The insurer told me that if we were to grow any GMO trials you should make very firm and very clear with the particular company and have a written guarantee that they cover you for all liabilities. "They told me that our company would not be able to provide cover unless they could find an overseas re-insurer who would be prepared to take on such a policy."