ON THE HORIZON by lindash


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									                              ON THE HORIZON
                                                                            February 2009

             Another Greenpeace GM tour headed Down Under

Just as the 2008 global GM crop statistics are launched demonstrating the continued successful
growth of GM crops, the Australian grains industry will be illuminated in late February and March
with the special insights of more American GM “experts” hosted in Australia by Greenpeace.

Readers will remember the previous Greenpeace events, organised in coordination with the
Network of Concerned Farmers*, which included visitations from:
•    Percy Schmeiser and Tom and Gail Wiley in 2002
•    Bob Willick, accompanied by Australian speakers, in 2003
•    Charles Benbrook in 2005, and
•    Jeffrey Smith in February 2008.

All these speakers were toured around metropolitan and regional Australia, espousing a litany of
negative views and perceptions on GM crops. These views and perceptions have since been
roundly discredited and uncovered for what they really are. In the case of the first Greenpeace
visitor, Percy Schmeiser, the facts were debated and resolved in Canada’s highest Court

Now, in 2009 we get to see this again.

Ironically, this week the ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech
Applications) released its annual GM crop statistics, stating that in 2008, 13.3 million farmers
worldwide grew 125 million hectares of GM crops in 25 countries. This is an increase of 9.4 per
cent over the previous year. In addition, three countries planted GM crops for the first time –
Bolivia (soy), Burkina Faso (cotton) and Egypt (corn).

While Greenpeace and friends continue to spend resources to present negative views, in an
attempt to prevent farmers from accessing these new plant varieties, growers in Australia and
around the world who have seen the opportunities these new crops bring, are clearly voting with
their feet.

According to Greenpeace, (www.truefood.org.au/newsandevents/) two North American seed
cleaners, Maurice (Moe) Parr and Ross Murray, will be touring Australia to discuss ‘issues’
surrounding GM crops.

The tour will incorporate Canberra, New South Wales (NSW), South Australia (SA), Victoria and
Western Australia (WA) in late February through into March, and includes both political and
grassroots farm community activities.

Greenpeace GM Tour – February & March 2009                                               1
The timing of the tour (see timetable) coincides with each state’s Parliamentary sitting date with
meetings and forums scheduled. Obviously the aim is to influence key Federal and State decision
makers, despite the success of GM cotton in Australia and the first commercial year of GM canola
in NSW and Victoria.

Rural communities are also being targeted through forums.

The US speakers will discuss their issues around GM crops including “corporate influences, costs,
segregation, legal concerns and marketing”.

The tour’s slogan is interesting: Organised by farmers for farmers. The tour is backed by
Greenpeace – an organisation not made up of rank and file farmers.

*The Network of Concerned Farmers, a small group of farmers lobbying to prevent GM crops in
Australia, appears to have considerable involvement in the event. The NCF is not a farmer-
representative body, unlike the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and all the State farmer

Maurice (Moe) Parr
Seventy-four year old Moe Parr owns and operates “Custom seed and grain cleaning” in Indiana,
Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Michigan.

The United States District Court has issued a permanent injunction against him, due to his actions.
The injunction prohibits Parr from cleaning Roundup Ready (GM) soybeans and means he must
honour the patent by informing customers it is illegal to save Roundup Ready seed. Mr Parr’s
customers must certify that their seed is not a patented product and they must provide samples for

The ruling came after allegations were made against Mr Parr for aiding, abetting and encouraging
customers to breach the patent on Monsanto’s GM Roundup Ready soybeans. Court papers state
that, “the defendant knowingly cleaned saved Roundup Ready Soybean seed for growers …
intentionally mislead growers into believing that their cleaning and planting of Roundup Ready
soybean         seed      would       not      infringe      Monsanto’s        patent    rights,”

Monsanto brought the lawsuit against Mr Parr in 2007. Monsanto agreed to forego the financial
judgment as long as Parr honours the terms of the court order. Obviously, without the protection of
intellectual property there would be little incentive for breeders to develop new and improved seed
varieties. Roundup Ready Soybean has been patented by Monsanto. The patent system is
designed to provide an incentive to innovation – so that those who have invested money on
research and development are given the opportunity to obtain a return for their expenditure, and to
promote the spread and use of knowledge.

Mr Parr can continue to clean conventional products such as soy, wheat and other seed crops.

Ross Murray
Ross Murray is an organic farmer from Saskatchewan in Canada, who operates “Manitou custom
seed cleaning”. According to his biography Mr Murray believes agriculture has a growing
dependence on synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertiliser and biotechnology which in turn sacrifices
biodiversity, health and food security. The tour has promoted Mr Murray as “looking forward to
dialogue with Australian food producers and consumers to find solutions that reduce our reliance
on multinational agribusiness”. This is perhaps somewhat ironic, given that while global companies
play a strong role in Australian agriculture, the vast amount of GM crop research is undertaken by
Australian public agencies such as CSIRO, Cooperative Research Centres, and State
Departments of Agriculture.

Greenpeace GM Tour – February & March 2009                                                   2
Mr Murray’s life membership of the Canadian National Farmers Union is also being promoted as a
credential. However, there is an important distinction: the Canadian Farmers’ Union, despite its
name, is a small offshoot organisation. It is not equivalent to Australia’s NFF which represents all
Australian farmers. The Canadian Farmers Union is a much smaller grouping of farmers and
others (it encourages membership from non-farmers). It claims to be “unique among farm
organisations in working for people’s interests against corporate control of our food supply,”

Canada does not have one peak body like Australia’s NFF but instead has peak commodity
organisations – the mainstream organisations, representing the majority of farmers (and other
supply chain partners) include the Western Canadian Wheat Growers and the Canola Council of

It is important to make informed decisions based on scientific, factual information. In the case of
gene technology, the facts are often overshadowed by opponent views, emotions and beliefs. Any
information should be questioned. In the case the upcoming Greenpeace tour readers are asked to
•       The credibility of the speakers and organisers
•       The real motivation of the tour and its backers
•       The basis of the information – ideological or scientific?
•       What the tour is aiming to achieve
•       The integrity of previous ‘tourists’
•       The involvement of Greenpeace.

Greenpeace GM Tour – February & March 2009                                                  3

Date             Time and Location                            Event
23-24 February   Canberra                                     Federal & ACT Government lobbying
24 February      Canberra                                     Parliamentary forum

25 February      3.00-4.30pm                                  Community forum
                 Endeavour Room, Yarrawonga-Mulwala
                 RSL, Melbourne Street, Mulwala
26 February      1.00-2.00pm                                  Parliamentary forum
                 The K Room, Parliament House, Spring
                 Street, Melbourne
26-27 February   Melbourne                                    Victorian Government lobbying
27 February      7.00-8.30pm                                  Community forum
                 Memorial Hall, 63 Hervey St, Elmore
28 February      2.00-3.30pm                                  Community forum
                 Wellesley    Performing    Arts    Centre,

South Australia
1 March         2.00-3.30pm                                   Community forum
                The Keith Institute, Heritage Street, Keith
2 March         7.00-8.30pm                                   Community forum
                The Saddleworth Institute, Burra Road,
3 March         2.00-3.30pm                                   Community forum
                Cummins Bowling Club, 60 Bruce Terrace,
4-5 March       Adelaide                                      South Australian Government lobbying
5 March         9.30-11.00am                                  Parliamentary forum
                The Plaza Room, Parliament House, North
                Terrace, Adelaide

Western Australia
6 March         7.00-8.30am                                   Community forum
                Taylor St Jetty Cafe and Restaurant,
                Taylor St, Esperance
7 March         10.00-11.30am                                 Community forum
                Scots hall, 168 York Street, Albany
8 March         Williams                                      Community forum
9-11 March      Perth                                         WA Government lobbying
11 March        Perth                                         Parliamentary forum

New South Wales
12-13 March   Sydney                                           NSW Government lobbying
13 March      10.00-11.30s,                                    Parliamentary forum
              Waratah     Room,     NSW      Parliament,
              Macquarie Street, Sydney
14 March      10.00-11.30am                                    Community forum
              Stephen Ward Room, Cootamundra Library,
16 March      7.00-8.30pm                                      Community forum
              Commercial Club, 77 Gurwood St,
              Wagga Wagga
17 March      Time TBC                                         Community forum
              Orange Ex-Services’ Club, 231 – 243 Anson
              Street, Orange
Greenpeace GM Tour – February & March 2009                                              4
The Australian grains industry comprises a range of participants from gene technology research,
plant breeding and seed companies who develop and produce varieties required by growers,
growers who grow and manage the crops and a range of logistic and marketing organisations
involved in the provision of the harvested crop to the end customer. All operate with a main
purpose in mind: to produce a quality product at an economic price that meets the spectrum of
customer requirements.

The Australian grains industry recognises that choice must be a priority across the supply chain so
that all customers – from farmers to consumers - can use or access the products of their choice.
The industry demonstrated its preparedness for the adoption of GM canola with the release, in
August 2007, of an industry statement entitled Delivering market choice with GM canola, which
was supported by the statement Principles for process management of grain within the Australian
supply chain - a guide for industry in an environment where GM and non-GM grain is marketed
(available at www.afaa.com.au).

The Australian Seed Federation (ASF), the peak industry body for the sowing seed industry in
Australia, has developed best practice guidelines for the industry. These guidelines detail
measures that plant breeders and seed companies can apply to manage the variety development
and seed production process for canola sowing seed. The objective of the guidelines is to provide
a platform on which plant breeders and seed companies can implement strategies and have in
place quality management systems. The ASF supports choice and provides choice to customers,
through its diverse and commercial membership, in response to market signals.

GM canola
In 2007, a study by the University of Melbourne (www.jcci.unimelb.edu.au/Canola2007.pdf)
indicated that if half the current canola types grown in Australia were replaced with GM canola the
impact on Australia would be:
•      640 tonnes less triazine herbicide would be used each year.
•      An extra 225,000 hectares of canola would be grown by direct drilling or minimum tillage.
•      Average national canola yields would increase from 1.17 to 1.28 tonnes per hectare
       (equivalent to eight per cent).
•      An additional 200,000 hectares of canola would be grown in low rainfall regions.
•      Wheat production (grown in rotation) would increase by 80,000 tonnes on the additional
       canola areas.

In 2008 a total of 450 growers and consultants participated in GM canola accreditation courses
and 108 farmers grew Australia’s first GM canola crop in NSW and Victoria. While official data from
this season is still being collated, farmers have reported an increase in yield, better weed
management, lower production costs, and the crop has been successfully marketed. Due to its
success, more farmers are intending to grow GM canola this year in NSW and Victoria. In addition,
farmers in WA will finally have the opportunity to access GM canola, with the Western Australian
Government announcing that GM canola will be grown on up to 20 WA farms in 2009.

Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited (AFAA) is an industry initiative, established to increase public awareness of, and encourage
informed debate and decision-making about gene technology. AFAA is committed to providing quality, factual, science-based
information on the use of gene technology in agriculture to allow for informed decisions.

The information contained in this email message and any attached files may be confidential and may contain legally privileged
information. We would be grateful if this information was not distributed to third parties, without prior consent from Agrifood
Awareness Australia Limited. If you are not the intended recipient, any use, disclosure or copying of this email is unauthorised. If
you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately by reply email and delete the original. Thank you. (February

Greenpeace GM Tour – February & March 2009                                                                                5

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