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9-Misc: Responses to West Australian GE-free zone paper released

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TITLE:  Public response to Genetic Modification Free Zones discussion paper
SOURCE: Government of West Australia, Ministry of Agriculture
DATE:   June 27, 2002

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Public response to Genetic Modification Free Zones discussion paper released

Agriculture Minister Kim Chance has released details of the public response 
to a discussion paper on the issue of Genetic Modification (GM) Free Zones. 
The purpose of the discussion paper was to determine the views of the 
public and industry on the potential for GM-free zones to offer a marketing 
advantage for agrifood products labelled as being produced in these zones. 
More than 1,250 copies of the discussion paper were posted to interested 
parties for comment and advertisements calling for submissions were placed 
in The West Australian and major rural newspapers. A total of 62 
submissions were received by the Department of Agriculture, which managed 
the consultation process on behalf of the Minister.

Comment was sought on the following core issues:
- the potential costs and benefits of GM-free zones;
- the form they might take and how they might be implemented and managed;
- current and future marketing benefits that may accrue to GM-free zones; 
- other industry or Government initiatives that may assist in maximising 
the long-term economic benefits to industry and the State through the 
establishment of GM-free zones.

Submissions were received from agribusinesses, community representatives, 
environmental groups, some individual farmers, local government, members of 
the public and a school group.

Mr Chance noted there were strongly polarised views expressed in the 
submissions with regard to the costs and benefits of introducing 
genetically modified crops. "With the notable exception of making the whole 
or a large part of the State a GM-free zone, the consensus from the 
majority of respondents was opposition to the establishment of GM-free 
zones," he said. "The submissions from farmers mainly reflected on a 
farmer's right to choose to grow or not to grow GM crops, but included 
opposition by farmers to the introduction at present of commercial GM 

"In the submissions there was support by most of agribusinesses for market 
determination and parallel production of conventional, organic and 
genetically modified crop production, supported by quality control and 
identity preservation systems." Mr Chance said the consultation process had 
identified a need for wider community consultation and research to take 
place prior to decisions being made regarding commercial releases of 
genetically modified crops.

The Minister would continue to work through the Gene Technology Ministerial 
Council to develop a policy principle ensuring the State Government had the 
authority to manage the marketing risk to the State's non-GM crops that may 
arise if GM crops were introduced in WA. "The State Government is very 
conscious of the need to protect the well-earned reputation of our 
agricultural and horticultural produce," he said. "Our agricultural exports 
make a massive contribution to the economy of this State and no government 
can afford to let this be put at risk."

Mr Chance said the State Government acknowledged and supported the role of 
Commonwealth Officer of the Gene Technology Regulator in regulating the GM 
trials and compliance with licensing conditions.

Copies of the report are available from the Department of Agriculture by 
contacting Andrew Quin on ++61-9368 3216
Minister's office: ++61-9213 6700


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