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South Australian farmers: 'Anyone listening? We don't want genetically engineered crops'

by Sam Statham
Network of Concerned Farmers of New South Wales, Australia

(Monday, Nov. 4, 2002 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- A survey of members of the South Australian Farmers Federation (SAFF) revealed yesterday that 80 percent want a moratorium on the introduction of genetically engineered crops. Farmers want the NSW (New South Wales) Farmers Association to poll its members on the issue, as well.

With the proposed release of transgenic canola only 5 months away, farmers around the country are increasingly frustrated that government is not listening to or addressing our concerns.

While we fret over the very real threat of lost markets because of genetic contamination, the executives of various farmers federations are ignoring us, their grassroots members.

The results of the South Australian farmers poll are even more shocking given that an October survey by Biotechnology Australia showed that rural South Australia has by far the lowest level of concern over genetically modified crops of any region in Australia.

If a similar poll were conducted in New South Wales, I predict that the response would be overwhelmingly in support of a moratorium.

Arthur Bowman, a canola grower and chairman of the Molong District Council of NSW Farmers told me: "The European Union is our third biggest export market for canola and they donít want GE food. Many consumers in Japan and China donít want to eat GE food, and many Australian food companies donít want to buy GE crops because their customers donít want it. We canít afford to risk losing our markets and contaminating conventional crops by introducing GE canola. Containment and co-existance are impossible and if GE canola is introduced, there is no turning back."

Bowman, I and many other farmers want the NSW Farmers Association to listen to its members. In the spirit of transparency and democracy, it's time to conduct a poll of all members on the issue of genetically engineered crops and whether a moratorium is in order.