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6-Regulation: Australia’s States free to ban GM crops

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TITLE:  States free to ban GM crops
SOURCE: The Age, Australia, by Andrew Darby Hobart
DATE:   November 7, 2000

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States free to ban GM crops

States have won the right to decide for themselves whether to grow 
genetically modified organisms, under changes to Australia's regulation of 
the controversial science. This means states will have the power to ban 
individual GM crops on marketing grounds, and it opens up the prospect of 
GM-free regions or even an entire GM-free state. The shift, agreed in 
principle at a meeting of state and federal officials, will be written into 
the policy of a Ministerial Council on Gene Technology, according to a 
spokeswoman for federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge.

An amendment to the new Gene Technology Bill will also enshrine a state's 
right to appeal on environmental grounds against a federal decision to 
allow a GMO's release. The changes follow a long campaign by Tasmania to 
opt out of GMO releases as part of its push to be accepted as a producer of 
"clean and green" foods. It has already imposed its own year-long 
moratorium on all GM crops while it decides what course to take. Other 
states including Victoria and New South Wales have agreed. Victoria's 
Agriculture Minister Keith Hamilton welcomed the amendments and will 
release a discussion paper on GM zones in Victoria within the month.

Tasmania's Minister for Primary Industries, David Llewellyn, said he 
believed the Commonwealth had realised it was a states' rights issue. Mr 
Llewellyn said the amendments would let a state legislate to exclude GM 
crops if it was concerned about its marketing image. He said states could 
also opt out on environmental grounds if they could establish 
scientifically that there was a risk in releasing GMOs. For example, if 
particular native plants in one state might be affected by a GMO, the state 
could then argue for its exclusion. There would be no automatic state veto 
on environmental grounds. Anti-GM environmentalists welcomed the changes. 
But GE-Free Tasmania's Georgia Miller said it was disappointing that opt-
out powers had not yet been extended to local government.

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