UPDATE 1-Australia risks organic export growth as it struggles to coexist with GMO

Thu May 29, 2014 11:33pm EDT
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(Recasts, adds new comment and forecast on canola)

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY May 29 (Reuters) - A landmark GMO contamination ruling in Australia could usher in lower organic farming standards, stripping the country of its premier status and threatening organic exports in an industry set to double in size by 2018.

Australia currently does not allow any trace of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in its organic produce.

But when an Australian court ruled on Wednesday against an organic farmer's damages bid, after GMO canola seed heads blew onto his property, causing him to loose his organic licence, many believe the zero GMO standard will now be watered down.

A move to a European Union model, which allows up to 0.9 percent, is being mooted to prevent farmers falling short of the required Australian organic standard and against a backdrop of increased GMO sowing in Australia.

However, a watering down of the regulations could limit Australia's organic exports to some key markets.

Andrew Monk, chairman of Australian Organic Ltd, the country's largest certifier, said he did not believe the standard needed changing and warned of the dangers of doing so.

"We would be really shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of future supply into markets like Asia and Europe for what are high valued, premium products," said Monk.   Continued...