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Australia: traces of approved GM material confirmed in Bayer CropScience canola grain
East Hawthorn Victoria
July 14, 2005

Bayer CropScience Australia has confirmed that routine testing by the ABB Grain Ltd has identified trace levels of approved GM material in a small consignment of canola from Victoria.

Ms Susie O'Neill, General Manager of the BioScience Division of Bayer CropScience confirmed the GM material identified is the approved event Topas 19/2, and added it is not a safety issue.

"The safety of Topas 19/2 has been extensively reviewed and approved by many regulatory authorities around the world including Australia, China, European Union and Japan.

"In Australia, the Federal Regulators, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) have approved this GM material as being as safe as conventional canola for food, humans and the environment," said Ms O'Neill.

Major Australian grain marketers have indicated that their ability to meet international customer and regulatory standards should be unchanged by this finding.

The GM material used in Bayer CropScience's current canola research and innovation program was not detected. The Victorian Government have acknowledged that there has been no breach of the current exemption for GM trials in Victoria.

Ms O'Neill said: "The traces of the GM material detected were about ten times below the reportable level in grains or about one hundred times below the level required for food labelling generally for GMO's in Australia.

"Trace levels of GM material is a reality in agricultural production systems around the world where seeds are exchanged between countries," she said.

Ms O'Neill added that whilst approved in Australia, the particular GM material detected has not been used in Bayer CropScience's Australian GM canola research and innovation program since 1998. Canola varieties containing this gene however have a long history of safe use in North America.

Managing Director of Bayer Australia Limited, Mr Sam Howard, said Bayer CropScience is cooperating with all parties to provide technical assistance and expertise on this matter.

"As the global leader in the canola hybrid seed business, Bayer CropScience remains fully committed to its Australian research and innovation activities for the canola crop," Mr Howard said.


What is an “event”?

  • A GMO “event” occurs when a gene is successfully inserted into a plant’s DNA.

What is the Topas 19/2 event?

  • Bayer CropScience developed the Topas 19/2 event in the early 90s as part of its research into finding better weed control options for canola farmers.
  • Topas 19/2 is the ‘package’ of genetics which was included in the first historic LibertyLink® Canadian canola varieties, such as: HCN10, HCN92 and Innovator®.
  • LibertyLink is the name given to GM crops developed by Bayer CropScience that confers tolerance to Liberty® herbicide (glufosinate-ammonium).
  • The Topas 19/2 event involves the pat gene (phosphinothricin acetyl transferase) originating from a soil bacteria (Streptomyces viridochromogenes) and confers tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium. The pat gene has been used as a marker in a wide range of research in a variety of crops around the world.
  • Bayer CropScience’s modern InVigor® hybrid canola varieties contain the “bar” (bialophos resistance) gene which also confers tolerance to Liberty herbicide. A number of events containing the bar gene have been commercialised in canola in North America, and are approved in Australia.

How were the traces of the approved GMO found in the Victorian consignment of canola?

  • Routine testing by ABB identified small traces of the approved GM
  • ABB’s routine testing is conducted by independent laboratories
  • Bayer CropScience recognises independent testing by grain marketers using validated methods and protocols as part of their Quality Assurance practices.

Current status of GM canola in Australia

  • There is no commercialisation of Bayer CropScience GM canola currently in Australia due to GM crop moratoriums.
  • Small scale research and innovation trials, conducted under stringent conditions and supervised by relevant regulators are continuing in Victoria and South Australia. These are the same type of trials that have been conducted in Australia for the past 8 years.

InVigor®, Innovator®, Liberty® and LibertyLink® are Registered Trademarks of Bayer

Related news release: GM canola detected in Victoria is as safe as conventional canola, says Australia's OGTR

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