Friday, January 21, 2011

Legal battle over GM contamination

A big legal battle over contamination by genetically modified crops is brewing in Western Australia, following organic farmer Steve Marsh's loss of his organic certification because of GM contamination.

For the first time in Australia, an organic farmer has lost his organic status because of contamination by GM canola. Kojonup farmer, Steve Marsh, confirmed that his oat and wheat crops have been downgraded to conventional crops because 70 per cent of his property has been contaminated with Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola.

Considering that organic wheat sells for $500 to $800 a tonne more than conventional wheat and GM seeds can remain viable for a number of years, Mr Marsh is facing massive financial losses. He has confirmed he will take legal action. In response, Monsanto has announced that it will bank-roll it's GM farmers legal defence - the sort of move expected from this global corporate bully.

Meanwhile, the Western Australian Government has done nothing to assist Mr Marsh. Agriculture Minister Terry Redman simply repeats Monsanto's position. Minister Redman wrote to Mr Marsh, putting the blame on organic standards for not allowing GM contamination. "The threshold for accidental presence in organic crops is an important issue which needs to be addressed to enable coexistence," Minister Redman wrote, stating that zero tolerance for GM in organic crops is "unrealistic".

More details at:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Floods have caused massive losses for chook farms

It's way too early to pull all the information together, but it looks as though the floods in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia have caused major losses on poultry farms.
There have been reports of over 300,000 birds drowning in the Victorian floods and probably more than twice that number in Queensland.
There's no doubt that whatever the final outcome, it will have a huge impact on the industry. Even for farms not affected by floods, there is likely to be a massive lift in feed prices which will send some companies to the wall. The price of feed is the biggestcost for egg farmers.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New van expected to arrive on Tuesday

Our new Holden Combo delivery van should arrive on the farm on Tuesday. It's being delivered from Seymour and is a great example of using the internet for purchases.
We saved over $3000 on the list price - and the van is being delivered to us!
It is very similar to our current Combo, but the new model has a slightly smaller engine - 1.4 litres instead of 1.6 (but it has very similar power output) 15 inch wheels rather than 14 inch ones and rear disc brakes. The only other differences appear to be a more sophisticated sound system, electric windows and central locking. So we are in the process of selling the current van which has been a great workhorse. I have removed the signwriting and I'll take it in for its roadworthy certificate this week. It's a 2003 model and has done 169,000 kms of country driving. We are looking at around $7000 for it, which I think is pretty good value for such a reliable vehicle which has been serviced regularly.
The size is ideal for us and given our good experience with our first Combo, it was a natural choice to gofor another one. We thought about buying a VW Caddy but the price difference was a bit daunting! I just wish that Holden imported the diesel version of the Combo which has been available in Europe for years.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Heavy rains causing probems for chook farms

Widespread flooding throughout many parts of Australia are impacting on chook farms as well as everyone else in various communities. Farms in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have been affected - some have been virtually wiped out while others have been isolated, preventing deliveries of feed etc and transport of eggs to markets.
Here in South Gippsland, everything is pretty soggy, but so far we have not been directly affected by roads being cut - and I hope that doesn't happen.
The weather may have a serious impact on our sales at markets by reducing the numbers of customers - but that is a very minor problem compared with the devastion which has been caused for some farms.
There's not much of a let-up on the immediate horizon but hopefully the worst is over.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Canberra Times joins the fight

An article in today's Canberra Sunday Times highlights the greed and stupidity of the Australian Egg Corporation's plans to change egg farming standards that will turn barn systems into "free range".

The article by Frances Stewart says : 'The current voluntary standards allow free-range egg farmers to keep up to 1500 chickens per hectare, but the industry body wants to increase this to 20,000 laying hens per hectare.

Australian Egg Corporation Limited proposed that free-range hens should be locked inside sheds for the first 25 weeks of their lives, despite the fact that they begin to lay at around 18 weeks. Currently they are able to access the outdoors from around six weeks of age. It says eggs produced under these intensive conditions should be called "free range" to attract premium prices.

And since only the ACT has laws regulating the labelling of eggs, the majority of Australians would be none the wiser.

There is no uniform mandatory labelling scheme for eggs in Australia, which means that there is no national, legally enforceable definition for "free range" eggs.

Producers can engage in practices such as de-beaking and still call their eggs "free range", while others use terms such as "fresh", "vegetarian fed", "environmentally friendly", "omega 3" or "especially for kids" to confuse consumers.'
It's great to see this sort of artice featured in a major newspaper and we need more of it to send the message home to the Federal Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Joe Ludwig that he must step in to stop the AECL from destroying the free range egg industry and deliberately misleading consumers.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Bees in trouble - and so are we

Silently, billions of bees seem to be dying off which means that our entire food chain is in danger. Bees don't just make honey, they are a giant workforce, pollinating 90% of the plants we grow.

Many scientific studies blame one group of toxic pesticides for their rapid demise, and bee populations have soared in four European countries that have banned these chemicals. But, of course, the chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep selling their poisons.

One of the big killers is reported to be Bayer with its insecticidal seed treatment Gaucho based on the ingredient imidacloprid.

Gaucho has been used in Australia on broadleaf crops, but in 2010 its on-label use was extended to include field peas, faba beans and lentils.

In recent years there has been a steep decline in bee numbers with some bee species now extinct and large populations diminishing. Scientists have been looking for answers and research has produced strong evidence blaming neonicotinoid pesticides (which includes Gaucho).

Without bees, we can expect massive food shortages.