National

Canadian farmer warns of GM dangers

Canadian farmer warns of GM dangers

Financial ruin and loss of organic agriculture will be part of the future Australia if genetically modified crop trials continue, according to Canadian farmer Peter Eggers.

Mr Eggers is facing similar consequences on his Alberta property after first trialling GM canola in the 1990s. Aside from providing no financial gain, he said the initial trial had left him unable to produce the crop organically.

"That is impossible," he said. "Once the cat is out of the bag, it's hard to get her back in."

Mr Eggers and fellow Canadian National Farmers Union member Matt Gehl were in Canberra this week, speaking with government representatives and farming organisations on their experiences with GM crops.

They also expressed their concerns over GM wheat trials being carried out by the CSIRO, which previously stated that commercial varieties of the plants would be available in 2015 if the trials produced positive outcomes.

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CSIRO dismissed claims last year that the trials or the organisation itself had links to multinational biotechnology company Monsanto, which is currently involved in legal proceedings in North America.

Mr Eggers is one of 83 plaintiffs who launched the case last year, disputing that the company cannot challenge farmers for patent rights when their crops are contaminated.

The Canadians' tour is supported by several organisations including Greenpeace, whose activists destroyed a $300,000 genetically modified wheat crop at a CSIRO facility in Ginninderra last year.

Jessa Latona and Heather McCabe were arrested and will face charges of property damage, trespass, and interference with a genetically modified organism when their trial begins next month. Greenpeace Australia spokesman James Lorenz said they had voluntarily presented themselves to police several days after the incident.

"The action we took in Canberra shone a spotlight on the risks of genetically engineered wheat, but in doing so it created a backlash from some," he said.

"We accept that this is the risk that we take when we act on our convictions."

Mr Lorenz could not comment on whether similar action would be taken in the future.

A CSIRO spokeswoman said the organisation was still determining if any results could be utilised from the trial.

"CSIRO is committed to making wheat with greater health benefits and producing more productive crops for Australian farmers," she said. "Our research in this area will continue."