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Advanta Told to Pay for Seed Mistake

(30 May - Cropchoice News) -- Drawing a link to the "polluter pays" approach used in environmental clean-ups, the French agriculture minister has announced that Advanta must compensate farmers who planted canola accidentally containing glyphosate resistant seed. "We have to apply the polluter pays principle," the Minster said in a radio interview, "We will ask the company to assume its responsibilities..."

The chief of Advanta France, Jean Saulue, has signalled that the company will respond to the government. Quoted by Reuters, Saulue says "Our clear, determined will is that the farmers concerned should not be penalised... I think the matter will be solved in the next few days."

American farmers could face similar problems. According to Iowa-based Genetic ID, sixty percent (12 of 20) American and Canadian conventional seed lots it tested had up to 1% biotech traits. Unlike Europe, these traits are approved for planting in America; but if contamination - or "leakage" - levels are high, it may interfere with identity preserved systems and non-biotech premiums.

This has some farm groups concerned that the biotech contamination of conventional seed lots and cross pollination could pit farmer against farmer. With the canola crisis, Europe is first to face the issue squarely. France is favoring government intervention on behalf of farmers while, so far, the UK government is resisting farmers requests to intervene, saying growers and the company will have to solve the problem on their own.

In France, a solution is relatively easy because of the small scale of canola plantings. Only about 1400 acres of the variety, called Hyola 38, were sown. About 600 British farmers who planted over 30,000 acres of Hyola 38 in the UK are in a much tougher situation. There, the government has advised farmers to plow their crop under; but has refused to provide compensation. Individual farmers and farmers unions are consulting legal experts on how to protect growers from bearing the cost of Advanta's mistake. Accrording to Scotland's Agriculture Minister, "Farmers are innocent victims in this episode. We will be pushing for full compensation for all farmers who inadvertently planted these crops."

SOURCES: Reuters, BBC, Pro Farmer Editors, Genetic ID