8 Aug 2012

Canola growers determined to stay GE-free

7:30 am on 8 August 2012

New Zealand growers of oilseed rape or canola say experiences overseas have convinced them they need to stay clear of genetically engineered crops.

The chairman of the rapeseed growers group, South Canterbury farmer Jeremy Talbot, agrees with a visiting Australian farmer, Bob Mackley, who has been brought to New Zealand by the Green Party to talk about the consequences of having GE crops in his area (western Victoria).

Mr Mackley says New Zealand needs to be aware that once the green light is given for GE production, there is no turning back.

He says it's a one-way trip and though it will probably be claimed that coexistence is possible, that's not true, because the default will always be GE.

"If New Zealand does go down the GE path," Mr Mackley says, "it is absolutely critical that the responsibility for non-GE farmers' losses must be squarely on the shoulders of the owners of the patents".

Mr Talbot says New Zealand rapeseed growers and processors share the view that they need to stay GE-free. He says they do not source seeds out of North America or Australia now, only out of European countries - and it's triple-tested by three independent operations to ensure it's GE-free.

Mr Talbot says there are now about 30 growers producing about 1500 hectares of oilseed rape in the South Island, Manawatu and Hawke's Bay.