ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

7 December 2001


1. Prove you're GM-free, Australian farmers told
2. FAO urges poor nations to boost organic food sales


1. Prove you're GM-free, Australian farmers told

By Boyd Champness
Australian agricultural news from FWi, Monday, 3 December, 2001.
Farmers' Weekly interactive: FWi at

GLOBAL food-processing giant Unilever has told Australian farmers they must provide proof that their crops are free of genetic modification if they want to continue supplying to the company.

Unilever heads a number of major food processors who are insisting that farmers, trucking firms and even seed suppliers establish vast paper trials to identify and prove ingredients derived from oilseeds, pulses and, in the near future, even potatoes are not genetically modified.

Farmers who want to supply foods free of genetic modification will have to create a special system to document and prove their crops are not tainted with manipulated genes.

The Weekly Times newspaper reported last week that the Australian arm of Unilever has already demanded that its suppliers prove and track grains and other produce from the seed source to silo, mill or crusher, in a bid to maintain consumer confidence that its products are not made from GM crops.

The newspaper reported that Unilever, Goodman Fielder and other processors have spent months screening ingredients to ensure they are GM-free, in preparation for the introduction  of new national labelling regulations that come into force on Friday (7 December).

The new regulations require all foods containing more than 1% of genetically modified material to be labelled accordingly.

The local grains industry is rushing to develop identity preservation (IP) systems to segregate conventional crops from GM varieties to ensure they meet processors' demands.

Unilever has made it clear that farmers wanting to supply to the company will need to embrace IP systems.

"If we can't get IP, then we replace the product with a flavor or something else," a Unilever spokeswoman told The Weekly Times.

Many farmers argue that the move is premature considering that an insect-resistant cottonseed is the only GM crop approved for commercial operation in Australia to date.

But processors argue that other GM crops will be released commercially in Australia within the next two seasons and want the systems in place now.

The other major concern for farmers is who will pick up the bill for identity preservation.

The Weekly Times reported that the Australian Gene Technology Grains Working Group is trying to determine how much effort should be put into developing IP systems, given the lack of premium in the market for non-GM products.

Working group consultant Peter Flottman told the newspaper there was a genuine concern that the lack of any premium for non-GM products in export markets meant there was little  incentive for growers to take on on-farm identity preservation, especially if GM crops proved to be significantly more productive [that will be the day!!!] than conventional cultivars, as they have been in North America. [amazing how the biotech industry hype triumphs over reality: see
for the reality of reduced yields, corporate control and market exclusion]


2. FAO urges poor nations to boost organic food sales [means keep land and crops GM free]

(Reuters) ITALY: December 4, 2001

ROME - The United Nations food body urged poor nations yesterday to boost exports of organic produce to take advantage of booming markets in developed countries.

"Domestic production of organic products in developed countries is expected to rise within the next few years, but it is unlikely to meet demand for most products," the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a report.

"As demand for organic fresh produce is expected to continue to exceed production in developed countries, imports will be needed to meet consumers' demand," said the study, entitled "World markets for organic fruit and vegetables."

Organic agriculture restricts the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

The market surveys carried out for the study indicated fast growth in sales of organic fruit and vegetables in most developed nations.

"Sales values were found to increase in most markets at annual rates generally ranging between 20 and 30 percent during the last years of the 1990s," the report said.

"Particularly high growth rates have recently been observed in the United Kingdom and in Italy," it added.

"In Italy, organic fruit and vegetable retail sales have grown at an annual rate of about 85 percent during 1998-2000, while in the early months of 2001, after the detection of the first case of 'mad cow disease' in Italy, growth rates moved even higher."


Developing nations located nearest to northern developed markets had the best chance of success in boosting their fresh organic food exports, according to the report.

"For products that cannot be produced in the colder climates in northern developed countries (e.g. oranges, kiwi etc) most organic supply comes from producing countries close to these markets, such as nations in the Mediterranean area for the EU," it said.

FAO said success in exporting to developed country markets depended on offering a more competitive producer and FOB price while meeting at least the organic and phytosanitary standards and providing the same quality as conventional products.

The report outlined the following recommendations to developing nations to boost exports to developed markets:

* Establish national or regional organic standards and regulations and a reliable independent accreditation and control system.

* Increase know-how on organic farming and organic inputs.

* Ensure good post-harvest handling (e.g. cold storage), good infrastructure and logistics (including harbour and airports).

* Maintain reliable relations with an importer, trader or wholesaler in the target market.

According to the study, the highest values of total organic food sales in 2000 were found in the United States ($8 billion), followed by Germany ($2.1 billion), Britain ($986 million) and Italy ($978 million).

Story by David Brough

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