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2-Plants: Australia imports GE maize for feeding its cattle

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                                  PART I
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SOURCE: Australian Biotechnology News, by Graeme O'Neill
        edited and sent by Agnet, Canada
DATE:   Dec 18, 2002

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As a desperate measure to keep alive elite dairy and beef cattle herds 
suffering in one of the worst droughts of the past century, Australia's 
livestock industries are, according to this story, moving to ship in maize 
from the US. The story says that some 30 per cent of the maize is likely to 
be from genetically modified (GM) varieties engineered for pest resistance 
or herbicide tolerance, because the US maize industry does not segregate 
conventional from GM grain.

Dr Rick Roush, director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Weed 
Management and a leading commentator on GM crops, was cited as predicting 
that US maize imports would inevitably result in "a huge scare campaign" by 
anti-GM activist groups like Greenpeace and the Australian GeneEthics 
Network, aimed at undermining consumer confidence in milk and dairy 

Roush was further cited as saying that the Office of the Gene Technology 
Regulator (OGTR) was currently considering applications to import US maize 
to feed starving livestock. The story says that the Australian imports are 
intended only for animal consumption, and the Australian Quarantine 
Inspection Service would require the shipments to be steam-sterilised and 
crushed at the port of entry, to obviate any risk of hybridisation with 
conventional maize crops in Australia.

Roush said consumers had no reason to be concerned about frequent claims by 
anti-GM activists that GM crops - or meat and dairy products from animals 
fed GM on grain - could have long-term, adverse effects on human health, 
stating, "Even European Union scientists agree there are no health risks 
associated with any GM crops modified so far. The irony of this debate is 
that Bt corn is actually safer for humans and animals to eat than 
conventional corn."

Bt maize varieties are protected against insects that damage growing 
kernels, so they are virtually free of fungi that contaminate damaged grain 
with toxic metabolites, called fumonisins. Roush said high rates of throat 
cancer in Africa have been linked to high levels of fumonisins in local 
maize varieties. US Bt maize varieties have up to a 40-fold reductonin 
fumonisin levels, and are effectively fumonisin-free.

US exports of mixed shipments of conventional and GM maize are carefully 
tested to ensure fumonisin levels are well within safety standards for 
human and animal consumption. John McQueen, CEO of the Australian Dairy 
Farmers Federation, was cited as saying that despite radio reports in South 
Australia that the dairy industry would not accept GM maize as stockfeed, 
and that the ADFF regards GM grain as safe, and has no policy that would 
prevent dairy farmers feeding it to their herds.

The same policy is endorsed by the dairy industry's peak body in Australia, 
the Australian Dairy Industry Council, which represents both dairy farmers 
and dairy foods producers. McQueen was further cited as saying that two 
producers of dairy foods - National Foods and Murray-Goulburn - had 
contractual requirements that their suppliers not use GM grain to feed 
their herds, adding, "We acknowledge their concerns, which related mainly 
to consumer perceptions, but we don't support them."

McQueen said that although both companies advertised their dairy products 
as GM-free, like most Australian dairy foods manufacturers, they used 
genetically engineered chymosin as a coagulating agent for cheese 
manufacturer. McQueen said that despite companies' claims that consumers 
were demanding GM-free dairy products, there was little evidence that the 
pressure came from consumers - it was more a marketing strategy, adding, 
"We have a crazy situation where Japanese companies won't accept dairy 
products from Australia that have been derived from cattle fed on 
genetically modified soybeans, yet the Japanese feed GM soybeans to their 
own cows. If Australian companies are silly enough to give such guarantees, 
they're only hurting themselves."

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Warning on GM canola
SOURCE: The Herald Sun, Australia, by Brendan O'Malley
DATE:   Dec 26, 2002

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Warning on GM canola

AUSTRALIANS will be unwittingly exposed to genetically modified canola if a 
report by the grains industry is accepted, opponents of the technology say. 
They also warn prices will rise because of measures needed to stop GM 
canola from mixing with normal crops. The development came as 48,000 tonnes 
of GM corn was set to arrive in the country to boost feed stocks for the 
drought-affected poultry and cattle industries. The corn would be imported 
from the US next month. Biological Farmers of Australia spokesman Scott 
Kinnear attacked the Gene Technology Grains Committee report on GM canola, 
released two days before Christmas. "They're only setting aside a 5m gap 
between GM and non-GM crops," he said. "That's ridiculous. The Australian 
pollen flow study found contamination from these sort of crops peaked 1.5km 
away." Greenpeace campaigner John Hepburn said farm gate costs would rise 
10 per cent because of new measures to keep GM crops out of the general 
food supply, which would either have to be absorbed by farmers or passed on 
to consumers.


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