European traders reject WA canola on GM grounds

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 20th April 2010

Three European grain traders, AgroTrace, Holtermann and Eurograin, have sent a letter to WA Premier Colin Barnett stating that they will not buy Western Australian grain if GM canola is grown.

The letter, dated February 26, directly addresses the WA government’s motion to exempt Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® GM canola from restrictions on GM crops, which passed last month by a narrow margin. A copy of the letter was sent unsolicited to GM-free group Gene Ethics last weekend.

“Without the assurance that WA can supply canola free from GM contamination, we will be forced to reconsider sourcing canola from Western Australia, in order to remain responsive to our customers and abide by strict European GMO labelling laws and contamination thresholds,” the letter reads.

“While the oilseed industry claims it will be able to segregate non-GM and GM canola, the experience in Canada has shown that segregation is unlikely to be successful. The contamination of non-GM canola with GM material will be inevitable. There is also a danger that other important export crops such as wheat will be contaminated with GM material.”

Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps criticised the WA government and the Agriculture Minister’s failure to disclose the existence of the letter.

“Redman failed in his duty to mention possible market losses, despite asserting that markets are the state’s primary responsibility,” said Phelps.

“They hid the letter, which could have affected the vote that passed approval for GM canola by the slim margin of 26 votes to 24.”

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman denied that the letter had ever been received by their office.

“This letter was received for the first time in my office today, attached to a press release from Gene Ethics. It would be difficult to ‘hide’ a letter we had never seen before,” said Redman.

“I have spoken at length about WA’s international canola markets and reiterate that last year’s trial demonstrated that segregation is possible and WA can provide both GM and non-GM canola. Farmers are not going to grow something they cannot sell – it’s as simple as that.”

It is not clear exactly what volume of grain the three companies currently import from Western Australia, however WA’s largest grain exporter, CBH, confirmed that none of the three companies buy grain through them.  “The grain crushers we deal with in Europe and Japan are very happy to continue buying Western Australian canola,” said CBH spokesperson Amber Anderson.

A similar letter was sent to the Agriculture Minister from Japan’s Seikatsu Club Consumer’s Co-operative Union, who import around 13 000 tonnes of non-GM canola annually.