Coexistence of different production systems

Page last updated: Monday, 13 July 2020 - 5:02pm

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Coexistence: Existing in mutual tolerance; Everyone’s Responsibility

Western Australian growers have the choice to use a wide range of production systems to generate products that meet their customer specifications. To support coexistence, growers need to consider their system and implement risk management strategies to minimise any potential negative impacts to other growers.

Requirements of different production systems

Certified organic, biodynamic, non-GM and GM production systems all have specific requirements as outlined in Table 1. To assist in managing various systems that may be within close proximity, growers should discuss individual production system requirements with their neighbours. The proforma letter (see: Coexistence letter) can be used to help you initiate a discussion with your neighbours.

Risk management

In agricultural production systems animal, plant and soil material can move from one property to another via a number of mechanisms. Similarly, agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides can affect non-intended targets.

Table 1 Summary of the main production system requirements for certified organic (or biodynamic), non-GM and GM production systems
Requirement Certified Organisation
(or biodynamic)*
Accredited production system Standards and certification requirements*
  • None required
  • Accreditation training
    Licence and Stewardship Agreement

Notification requirements

  • Neighbours
  • Yes
  • None required
  • Recommended
  • Statutory authorities
    (eg. Western Power, local authorities
  • Yes
  • None required
  • Recommended
Property and farm system requirements     Must comply with, and document compliance with licence conditions
  • Pesticides
  • Only permitted substances
  • No specific exclusions
  • No specific exclusions
  • Fertilisers
  • Only permitted inputs
  • No specific exclusions
  • No specific exclusions
  • GM material
  • Not permitted
  • Np specific exclusions
  • No specific exclusions
Market threshold(s) in produce      
  • Pesticides
  • Yes (check certifier standards)
  • Yes (industry standard)
  • Yes (industry standard)
  • GM material
  • Not permitted in product or on farm
  • Must contain less than industry threshold for GM presence (0.9%)
  • No specific exclusions
Consequence of exceeding market threshold
  • Loss of organic market
  • Possible certification suspension of affected land until risk is minimised
  • Loss of non-GM market
  • Loss of market

* Individual organic/biodynamic certifiers in Australia may have slightly different requirements

Risk assessment

While it is possible to have processes in place to minimise these events, it is not possible to eliminate them.

Growers need to assess the risks of these events and plan accordingly in order to minimise the possibility of impacting on neighbours.

Discuss your planned production activities with your neighbours. You may find it helpful to fill in the proforma letter 'Coexistence letter' and give it to your neighbour to start a discussion.

If you plan to take a particular course of action  ask yourself what could go wrong? Does anything need to be done to manage the risks? If so, what are the options available and what are the possible financial consequences. Figure 1 shows some of the matters to consider during risk assessment.

Flow chart for assessment of risk in production systems highlighting stages of risk assessment and risk mitigation
Figure 1. Consideration for risk assessment

Specific guidance for risk management

As everyone’s circumstances differ it is not possible to provide specific risk management guidance. Instead, you might consider factors which may influence the risk of material (for example, soil, plants, pesticides, disease inoculum and so on) transfering from your property to other properties and possible steps you might adopt to minimise these risks (Table 2).

Farmers have a duty of care to manage their crops to minimise impacts on others. Overall, you need to make an informed judgement on whether the risk of harm of your production activity to your neighbour’s production system is manageable.

If the risk of harm is not manageable you might re-consider your proposed production activity.

Table 2 Factors influencing the risk of material transfer between properties**
Factors Influence Practices which may decrease risk of material transfer between properties
Proximity Distance between location of your production system and the location of any sensitive sites 'Best practice' such as  buffer zones between GM and non-GM, organic  and non-organic properties for example could be considered.
Mode of transfer    
  • Wind
Consider prevailing winds (strenth and direction)
  • Smoke damage can seriously effect the value of wine grapes by causing flavour taints. Avoid burning near vineyards.
  • Pesticides - avoid spraying  on windy days. Spray when a positive direction away from sensitive farming practice and other sensitive areas (refer to 'Code of practice for the use of agricultural and veterinary products' ).
  • Plant material - consider prevailing winds avoiding cultivation of GM material in areas  subject to wind events which might transfer GM material onto adjacent properties.
  • Avoid swathing in boundary paddocks, if you must swath a boundary  paddock leave a buffer  of standing crop along your boundary fence.
  • Water
Consider possible modes of water borne transfer
  • Pesticides - don't spray near waterways which run into neighbouring properties.
  • Pesticide and plant material - avoid cultivation of GM material in areas subject to flooding  and run off onto adjacent properties.
  • Prevent across ground water movement into neighbouring properties by the installation of diversion banks to direct water into dams on your property.
  • Physical movement
Consider possible person, animal, vehicle based, soil borne, admixture (ie grain movement) transfer
  • 'Best practice' management and on farm quality assurance systems employed for pesticide spray application, agronomic management, buffer zones,  harvest strategy and grain handling etc.
  • Inform all farm visitors and contractors of your production system and any coexistance requirements.
  • Thoroughly clean equipment before moving between properties, and ensure transport equipment  is fit for the intended purpose.
  • Control stock movement.
  • Control the movement of animals, pests, diseases and weeds.

** Note that other influences may exist that suggest risk which have not been covered in this table

Contact information

Genetic Modification Policy and Regulation