Japanese visitors urge KI farmers to stay GMO free | PHOTOS

A delegation of Japanese visitors last week made an impassioned plea to Kangaroo Island farmers to stay GMO free.

The visitors were on the 10th annual visit to Kangaroo Island organised by KI Pure Grain and the Palsystem Consumers' Co-operative Union.

This is also the 10th year that all of the Island's canola has been exported to Japan to be sold as ethically produced, single origin and GMO free canola.

The sale to Japan means KI farmers receive a premium price for their canola, helping to overcome the extra costs of farming on and shipping from the Island.

Translator, tour organiser and trade consultant Chris Wood explained it all started out in about 2006 when Japanese food processor Shigemi Hirata made inquiries about purchasing all of KI's GMO free canola.

It was thanks to Mr Hirata's inquiries that the Island's grain marketing company, Kangaroo Island Pure Grain, was founded.

"The farmers initially did not believe all their canola could go to one company that was willing to pay a premium price," Mr Wood said.

Mr Hirata processes the KI canola using natural vinegar instead of petrochemicals and then it is sold through the Palsystem co-operative's catalogue.

He was along for his 10th KI tour as were representatives from Kanematsu Australia, the Sydney-based trading company that exports the Island's canola to Japan.

The SA Government recently announced it was abolishing the ban on genetically modified canola for the mainland but KI will retain its GMO-free status.

The delegates at the special dinner at the Aurora Ozone Hotel presented a video made for KI farmers, thanking them for their hard work, sticking with GMO crops and urging them to continue to do so.

"I know it's not easy for the farmers to cultivate only non GMO products in their vast farms and I do appreciate their dedication," said one Palsystem co-op member in the video.

"I don't want the canola on Kangaroo Island to be dominated or monopolized for the profits of one company," said another.

KIPG CEO Shane Mills assured the delegates at the dinner that his company would do everything it could to maintain KI's GMO-free status.

The tour started as it does each year with a visit to the Island Beehive honey factory where owner Peter Davis explained how his operation was organic certified.

Thanks to the KIPG relationship, the Palsystem catalogue now sells his KI honey and was also looking at expanding to offer other Island products, such as broad beans, barley and wheat flour.

The delegates then visited several canola fields, as well as a paddock of broad beans. Lunch was a barbecue at the KIPG silos and grain handling facility.

They then travelled west to visit Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic and the garlic farm of Shane Leahy, where they volunteered to pick weeds from the field, before inspecting his processing facility and trying some of his product.

On the way back, they visited the wildlife park at Parndana to meet some of the unique Kangaroo Island and Australian animals.

A special celebratory dinner was held at the Aurora Ozone Hotel in Kingscote where gifts were exchanged.