The New South Wales Farmers' Association has condemned the actions of Greenpeace protesters who scaled a fence and destroyed a crop of genetically modified (GM) wheat at a CSIRO farm in Canberra.
Scientists have lost a year of work and up to $300,000 after Greenpeace activists destroyed a crop of genetically modified wheat at Ginninderra.
NSW Farmers’ grains committee chairman, Mark Hoskinson, says not only is it illegal, but it has destroyed valuable research which has been paid for by levies on Australian grain growers.
“Greenpeace has shown how completely irresponsible it is and has shown contempt for the biosecurity protocols that have been put in place in a controlled environment by the trained and professional CSIRO staff,” he says.
“For all they know, they could have spread about spores of a new virulent pathogen of stripe rust. I sincerely hope that isn’t the case, but the risk is there for this type of protest. The protesters jeopardised valuable seed or grain that could be used for future trials.
“NSW Farmers’ is committed to maintaining choice and coexistence for Australian grain growers and supports research and development into GM crops. NSW Farmers’ proactively supports research and development, and market and trade discussions for future GM crops – as long as the supply chain can effectively segregate, as has been the case with GM canola,” says Hoskinson.
The association supports policy that is based upon rigorous evaluation of GM products and credible peer-reviewed data, he says. “Actions like that of the Greenpeace protesters reduce the chance for this data to be produced in a controlled environment.”
Industry estimates that GM wheat is at least seven years away and the association says it will continue to work with the domestic and international grains industries, regulators, growers, food manufacturers and customers until that time.
Greenpeace says GM crops are dangerous and has called on the Federal Government to ban them.
The GM trials were conducted under licences from the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator which imposes strict containment conditions.
CSIRO Plant Industry chief Jeremy Burdon said the wheat was modified to increase yield and improve nutritional value. He denied the government-funded science body had links to multinational biotechnology company Monsanto.
''I don't see the grounds under which anyone should be concerned about the level of integrity the CSIRO [employs in its] experimental work,'' Dr Burdon said. He said the GM crops were safe.
''Gene silencing basically allows you to turn off genes and manipulate existing genes within a plant. It's not like some GM products where you bring in a gene from a totally different species. In this case, you are simply taking the existing genes that are there and turning them on or off.''
A Senator from Queensland, Barnaby Joyce
, commented on the actions saying, "Today's illegal Greenpeace activity has once and for all proven what many of us have feared for quite some time - Greenpeace is not interested in green outcomes or sustainable agriculture and food production.
“This is purely a non-factual, high profile fund raiser and Australian consumers need to be aware of this.” (The Land, July 15, 2011