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Australia Pressured by Market
to Ban Frankencrops

Weekly Times (Australia)
December 4, 2002

Markets dampen GM hopes

By: PETER HEMPHILL

KEY overseas customers have warned they would dump Australia as a barley
source if it moved to produce any commercial genetically modified grain
crop.

The latest edition of the ABB Grain Ltd Chairman's Newsletter said Saudi
Arabia and Japan had expressed concern about Australia's impending move to
commercial release GM grains.

It said Saudi Arabia -- the world's largest barley importer -- indicated it
"may refuse to trade barley with ABB if Australia produces any commercial GM
crops in the future". Japan, a premium market for Australian barley and
wheat, said Australia might lose its advantage in the Japanese market due to
"concerns of contamination of non-GM grains by GM canola".

The news is a big setback for the push towards commercial release of GM seed
next year.

Bayer and Monsanto have applied to the Office of the Gene Technology
Regulator for commercial release of GM canola next year.

But last month, Commonwealth gene technology regulator Sue Meek "stopped the
clock" on the permit applications until further information was provided on
supply chain management.

Segregation of GM grains from non-GM product was a major concern of ABB
Grain.

ABB Grain chairman Trevor Day told The Weekly Times ABB Grain had made a
submission to a South Australian Government inquiry urging holding off on
approvals of GM grains until protocols for segregation were developed.
"Contamination (of non-GM product) is our biggest problem," he said. "Canola
turns up in barley cargoes all the time.

"What do we do when the buyer finds it and says: 'Prove that it is not GM
canola?' "

ABB Grain's message highlighted the age-old adage "the customer is always
right".

"If a buyer doesn't want something, you have got to be a bloody good
salesman to sell it to them," Mr Day said.

"You just can't force it down people's throats."

The ABB newsletter said Saudi Arabia required documentation certifying grain
shipments were free of GM product.

Australian maltsters and brewers have told ABB Grain they were not
interested in GM barley.

Woomelang grower John Steele said the Australian grain industry was taking
the wrong approach to GM products.

Mr Steele said the industry wanted to grow GM grain and then try to educate
consumers into believing they needed GM.

"Until the markets say they want the stuff, there's no point in growing
GMOs," he said.

Last week, anti-GM campaigner Bob Phelps called on Victoria to be declared
free of GM food products.

Mr Phelps, director of GeneEthics, said the Victorian Government had the
power under Section 21 of the Gene Technology Act to declare the state GM
free.

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