More than half the of fugitive Canola plants growing on the edge of Albany Highway in the GM-free heartland of Williams are genetically modified plants, a survey released today reveals.
The survey, which took place earlier this month on a 10km stretch of highway north of the Williams’ town-site, was conducted by the Conservation Council of WA’s Citizen Science program. Overall 62% of fugitive plants were found to be genetically modified, despite GM crops making up less than 8% of the 2011 harvest.
The Roundup Ready GM Canola variant is used in WA, making the fugitive plants resistant to the popular herbicide, Roundup.
CCWA Citizen Science Coordinator Dr Nic Dunlop said, “The very high concentration of roadside Canola plants in this region was both unexpected and alarming.
“The GM component of the 2011 Canola crop was probably less than 8%, which would normally be further diluted by non-GM seed from nearly two decades of conventional Canola transport. One or two percent might be expected but 62% indicates that some local factor or factors must be concentrating GM plants. These may be related to a botched clean-up of the GM Canola truck-spill that occurred in the area in August 2011 or the use of Roundup by the Main Roads Department in its roadside weed management program or a combination of both.
“Clearly the government’s monitoring of the spread of GM Canola by road transport is totally inadequate.
“An urgent clean-up of what is clearly now a GM Canola infestation is now required to ensure ongoing crop segregation in the Williams Shire. A thorough inquiry is also needed as to the effectiveness of the 2011 truck spill clean-up and the potential for unknown areas of contamination well away from the truck-spill site.
“These results also illustrate the problem that the Main Roads Department and local governments now have with weed control within the road reserves where fugitive Canola may be present. The operation of the polluter pays principle would avoid problems we’re having now, where the cost of multiple herbicides and additional weed control and spraying programs forced on non-beneficiaries including tax-and- rate-payers.
“The survey further demonstrates the implausibility of the State Government’s stated objectives of segregating GM and non GM Canola crops and products.”
The report on the Williams GM Canola survey can be found on the CCWA website at ccwa.org.au/content/fugitive-gm-canola-study
For further comment:
Nic Dunlop, 0409014030
Simon Harding (Williams community), 0427856047
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