Farmer Stuart Larsson is concerned about the future of his soy farming operation if GM canola and other crops get the green light
Farmer Stuart Larsson is concerned about the future of his soy farming operation if GM canola and other crops get the green light Northern Star

Soy farmers voice fears over GM crops

A FOREIGN pest could destroy Australia's soy bean industry.

That was the fear of soy bean grower Stuart Larsson, as he prepared to harvest his crop in Mallanganee this week.

This foreign pest doesn't have six legs, instead it has three initials - GMO (genetically modified organisms) - and they're sending shivers down the spines of soy bean growers across the nation, according to Mr Larsson.

He believes the success of the Australian soy bean industry rests on the ban of GMOs during the harvest and production of the bean.

"The Australian soy bean market isn't competitive worldwide in terms of production," Mr Larsson said.

"The only reason we are surviving is because we are one of the only remaining GMO-free markets. It's vital we stay that way.

"The government lifted the ban on using GMOs on canola in February, and if the ban was lifted on soy beans as well it would be devastating."

The lifting of the GMO ban on canola crops wasn't good news for soy bean growers, according to local agriculture academic Dave Forrest.

"Soy bean growers are already on the list as one of the next crops to lift the ban, and now that the door is open for bees to travel from canola to soy crops," Mr Forrest said.

"It will make it hard for growers to prove to overseas markets that their soy beans are GMO-free.

"Soy bean crops are a big money earner for the Northern Rivers. If the industry was affected it would cost the economy as well as farmers."

District agronomist at Casino, Bede Clarke, said around 80 per cent of soy beans in the world are genetically modified, and confirmed the success of Australia's soy bean industry - especially in relation to markets in South Korea and Japan - relied on keeping their GMO-free label.

Mr Clarke confirmed that this season's soy bean crops in the Northern Rivers region had been reduced because of the January floods and an unusually short summer.

"Usually we would have about 6000 hectares of soy beans in the area. This year we have around 4500 hectares," he said.

"A lot of crops were damaged after the floods and people didn't have enough time to replant before the end of January, which is the best time."

While Mr Larrson said these two weather-related factors had combined to reduce his harvest to less than 50 per cent of his usual yield - the erratic weather was not of as much concern as the looming GMO issue.


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