By Boyd Champness
ENVIRONMENTAL groups are outraged after genetically modified canola plants – not approved for public release in Australia – were found dumped in an open commercial rubbish tip near the South Australian city of Mount Gambia.
The Age newspaper made the discovery after a concerned farmer told where the tip was.
Federal Government experts have warned that herbicide-resistant “superweeds”, which could prove impossible to eradicate, could emerge after such plants cross-pollinate with certain common weed species.
The dumped plants, belonging to the multinational crop science company Aventis, contained up to three genetic modifications – one giving herbicide resistance and a second encouraging them to make hybrids.
It is believed the third genetic modification made the plants resistant to two common antibiotics – one used in human pharmaceuticals.
Multinational companies are believed to be growing GM canola in over 200 trial plots across Australias six states.
Such sites have so far been kept secret from local councils, the media and even State Government agencies.
The Organic Federation chairman, Mr Scott Kinnear, said the dumping illustrated the weakness in having such an important issue monitored only by industry self-regulation.
“This industry should be controlled by legislation based on enforced regulation, not a voluntary system,” Mr Kinnear told The Age newspaper.
Strict guidelines are suppose to be in place when experimental GM material is disposed of.
But the GM canola plants were placed in plastic bags and dumped in a skip. Up to a third of the bags in the skip were torn.
Aventis spokeswoman Naomi Stevens said the company was able to dispose of dead plant material in such a way providing it was buried under a metre of soil within 24 hours.
“What is the problem? Its just dead plants,” Ms Stevens told The Age.
A spokesman for the company owning the skip hired by Aventis said the skip was removed on the 17 March and dumped at a nearby private open landfill.
He told the newspaper he did not know what the skip contained and would have ensured it was buried if he had.
Currently all GM tests in Australia are supervised by a self-regulating body, the Institutional Bio-safety Committees, which is dominated by the bio-technology industry.
Legislation to control GM products is expected to go to Federal Parliament next month.