GENET archive


6-Regulation: Australian States block GE canola introduction

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Australia farmers support NSW stay on GM canola
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   May 19, 2003

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Australia farmers support NSW stay on GM canola

SYDNEY - Australia's largest farmers' group welcomed a three-year ban on
commercial genetically modified (GM) food crops in the state of New South
Wales. The New South Wales (NSW) government said it would introduce
legislation next week to impose the moratorium before the federal Gene
Technology Regulator approved a commercial release of GM canola.
Australia is now half-way through an eight-week public consultation
period on the commercial release of GM canola after an April 1 clearance
by the federal regulator. State governments, however, have the power to
ban GM crops in their jurisdictions. The NSW ban means Australia will not
produce a significant GM canola crop this year even if federal
authorities clear the way for it to do so. A moratorium on the commercial
release in NSW of GM food crops such as canola, mustard and field peas is
effective from March 2003, said NSW Agriculture Minister Ian Macdonald.
Cotton crops will be exempt. The NSW Farmers Association said it
supported the postponement of any general release of GM canola until
segregation and trade issues were all addressed. Trials must be big
enough to test claims of the biotech companies about how crops perform in
the field, as well as capabilities of the supply chain and domestic and
international markets, said Mal Peters, the association president. "This
is worse than ... we thought. The minister can choose to approve
cultivation of a GE (genetically engineered) food crop at any stage," Ian
Cohen, a Greens Party member of state parliament said. Australia is a
major producer and exporter of canola, which is used in cooking oil.
Farmers fear the loss of markets if they produce GM canola, and also are
worried about a loss of competitiveness to GM competitors.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  States to block GM
SOURCE: The Australian, by Caitlin Fitzsimmons
DATE:   May 16, 2003

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States to block GM

THE nation's first genetically modified food crop is likely to gain
federal approval within weeks, but faces potential rejection at state
level. A variety of GM canola could be approved as safe for human health
and the environment next month - but the first harvest is some years away
due to a moratorium in several states. The debate comes as Australia
joins the US and 12 other countries in challenging Europe in the World
Trade Organisation over its restrictions on the importation of GM food.
The office of the gene technology regulator is widely expected to approve
an application by the Bayer company for commercial release of its InVigor
variety of GM canola. But final approval rests with the states, which are
anxious to protect exports to Europe and other GM-wary markets.

The NSW Government yesterday joined its counterparts in Victoria,
Tasmania and Western Australia in announcing a three-year moratorium on
commercial GM food crops such as canola. NSW Agriculture Minister Ian
Macdonald said 13 per cent of the state's canola exports went to Europe,
where consumer opposition to GM food was high. The moratorium would give
NSW time to research potential damage to trade. "We're concerned about
the marketing aspects," Mr Macdonald told The Australian. "It's about how
you keep the GM crops isolated from the non-GM crops ... and the markets
that might not be well disposed towards us adopting a GM path, such as

The state's Opposition parties were cynical about the Carr Government's
proposed legislation, which will be debated in parliament next week. The
Greens and the Democrats said the proposed laws provided ministerial
discretion to ban or allow GM crops, while the Coalition was concerned
the exemptions for scientific trials could undermine non-GM growers.

Victoria and South Australia have delayed commercial GM crops for at
least a year, Western Australia is two years into a five-year ban and
Tasmania has extended a previous moratorium until 2008. Queensland has no
restrictions on GM crops, but grows little canola because of its warm
climate. If approved, the Bayer canola would be the first GM food crop in
Australia - with the possible exception of GM cotton, which can be used
to produce a food oil.

Gene technology regulator Sue Meek told The Australian the risk
assessment showed the crop was safe but said the public consultation
phase did not close until May 26. Federal Trade Minister Mark Vaile said
Australia would join the dispute against Europe to make sure the nation's
interests were taken into account. Australia shared US concerns that
Europe had a de facto moratorium on GM food importation and that this was
not based on science.

                                  PART III
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TITLE:  NSW Opposition, greenies join forces in GM food debate
SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
DATE:   May 16, 2003

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NSW Opposition, greenies join forces in GM food debate

The New South Wales Opposition has forged an unusual alliance with green
groups over the Carr Government's bill for a ban on the commercial
release of genetically modified food crops. The Government yesterday
unveiled a bill that makes good on its election promise for a three-year
moratorium on the commercial production of GM crops. The ban is designed
to buy time for more scientific research to be carried out into the
possible health effects of these crops. However, Shadow Agriculture
Minister Duncan Gay says he is concerned about the decision to permit
research trials of GM food crops. Mr Gay says the bill should spell out
exactly how the trials would be controlled. "I hold the same concerns as
have been expressed by farmers and green groups that these trials could
be used as commercial production by stealth," Mr Gay said. "A five-metre
buffer zone, as far as I'm concerned and the majority of producers I've
spoken to this week, is not enough. "We have to guarantee zero
contamination outside these sites." Agriculture Minister Ian Macdonald
denies the trials are a way of getting around the moratorium and argues
tight rules will apply.

                                  PART IV
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TITLE:  Tas MPs debate GE moratorium
SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
DATE:   May 16, 2003

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Tas MPs debate GE moratorium

Australia's support for a move to overturn the European Union's
moratorium on genetically engineered (GE) products has generated heated
debate in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government is being urged to lead an
Australian rebellion against the American-led action Tasmanian Greens
leader Peg Putt has condemned the Federal Government's decision, saying
Australia's reputation as being free of genetically engineered products
could be threatened if the action succeeds. "In other words the GE-free
market will be completely destroyed and the GE-free place will no longer
exist," she said. Federal Trade Minister Mark Vaille hit back at
allegations that the Government's position was another example of
Australia jumping into bed with the United States. "We don't line up on
the side of the United States on every issue or every dispute that takes
place," he said. Tasmania's Primary Industries Minister, Bryan Green,
also criticised the Federal Government. "Tasmania and certainly the
majority of the rest of Australia aren't interested in that approach," he
said. Mr Green and Ms Putt say the Commonwealth's position contravenes
that of most of the states.

                                  PART V
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TITLE:  GM legislation will sanction field trials
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Stephanie Peatling
DATE:   May 16, 2003

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GM legislation will sanction field trials

A proposed statewide moratorium on genetically modified crops will allow
field trials of any size to take place, in a move environmentalists say
makes a mockery of the ban. During the state election campaign the
Premier, Bob Carr, promised to halt the commercial release of genetically
modified crops for three years. But the draft legislation, which will be
introduced when Parliament resumes next week, will not ban field trials
of food crops such as canola. It will also give the Minister for
Agriculture, Ian Macdonald, the power to grant exemptions to the
moratorium at any time.

Environmental groups, the Greens, the Democrats and the Opposition
criticised the Government for allowing the "de facto" introduction of GM
food crops into NSW. Greenpeace campaigner John Hepburn said: "Trials
present the same environmental, economic and health problems as a
commercial release. Allowing them . . . would undermine the moratorium."
Victoria last week announced a 12-month moratorium on GM crops, which
included calling a halt to GM trials. The Greens said the NSW legislation
provided for insufficient monitoring of the effects of the moratorium. A
Greens MLC, Ian Cohen, said the moratorium would solve nothing unless its
effects were assessed over the three-year period. Individuals and
companies would also be able to apply to the Minister for Agriculture for
exemptions from the moratorium, including for field trials. "The promise
of a moratorium would be fudged if the minister is given discretionary
powers to determine applications in that three-year period," Mr Cohen
said. Although farmers support the moratorium, they want to see trials go
ahead in order to test the impact of GM crops.

Chemical giant Bayer has applied to run trials of GM canola on 68
hectares, of which 10 hectares might be in NSW. Mr Macdonald said
yesterday the moratorium was "a sensible period given the scant
understanding of GM technology in the wider community". He said an expert
panel would "ensure that the Government keeps abreast of GM developments
and issues as they relate to agriculture". The moratorium has been made a
priority by the Government - which promised it in preference negotiations
with the Greens - to beat a ruling by the Commonwealth Gene Technology
Regulator covering applications for the commercial release of GM canola.
The Opposition's agriculture spokesman, Duncan Gay, said the proposed
legislation contained no provisions to protect non-GM crops from possible

                                  PART VI
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TITLE:  Moratorium under fire
SOURCE: Hamilton Spectator, AUstralia, by Brian O'Brien
DATE:   May 13, 2003

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Moratorium under fire

HALF a dozen farmers in the Hamilton region who planned to sow
genetically modified (GM) canola next month will be denied the chance.
This follows a decision by the Victorian Government to ban any commercial
plantings of GM canola for 12 months. The decision dismayed Bayer
CropScience which disagrees there is a need for a moratorium on its GM
Invigor canola commercial release. Bayer says it had 20 farmers across
western Victoria indicate they were willing to grow about 1000 ha of the
controversial crop. Bayer has been conducting small breeding and
development trials of the GM crop for the past seven years, some in the
Hamilton region. Victoria joins New South Wales, South Australia, West
Australia and Tasmania in banning the growing of GM canola, at least for
this year. The Victorian ban was met with howls of protest from the
Victorian Farmers Federation and National Party who claimed the
government had thrown away a golden opportunity to lead the nation in new

Hamilton interest

Bayer Cropscience Bioscience general manager, Susie O'Neill, told the
Spectator about 30 per cent of the 20 selected farmers lived in the
Hamilton region and across to Lake Bolac. The remainder of the farmers
who planed to grow the crop were in the area from Lake Bolac down to near
Geelong. "We will be contacting the interested farmers and letting them
know what's happened. We will be inviting them to have a look at our
small plot trials this year. "We are disappointed and we didn't agree on
the need for a moratorium," Ms O'Neill said. "But we are committed to
working with the Victorian Government. "The plans were to get farmers in
your area to grow the first GM canola crops in a limited and controlled
release which would have answered some of the outstanding questions on
markets and market access. "But that won't happen now." She said the 20
farmers had indicated their interest after Bayer CropScience held several
meetings in this region.

Lot of interest

"We had no trouble sourcing sufficient farmers to grow the crop," Ms
O'Neill added. Ms O'Neill said the Office of Gene Technology Regulator
(OGTR) had examined the proposed GM canola release and found it safe.
"Sue Meek (regulator) found that Invigor posed no higher risk to the
environment or human health than conventional canola." In March, OGTR
issued preliminary advice that GM crops posed no risk to health, safety,
or the environment. A final ruling is expected in June. Victorian
Agriculture Minister, Bob Cameron, said the 12 month moratorium was
needed to allow a detailed study of its impact on Victorian export
markets. "There have been concerns about the impact of commercialisation
of GM canola on Victorian export markets," Mr Cameron said. "These issues
need to be satisfactorily resolved before we can confidently move forward."

Wheat, barley concerns

Mr Cameron claimed both the Australian Wheat Board and Australian Barley
Board raised concerns the commercial growing of GM canola may have an
impact on their markets. Meanwhile, in a prepared statement, Ms O'Neill
said the commercial growing of GM canola would have shown that GM canola
could co-exist with non-GM canola. She claimed Invigor had a 10 to 15 per
cent higher yield than conventional open pollinated canola varieties, and
more than 20 per cent higher than Triazine-tolerant varieties. As well, a
new herbicide produced by the company was better for the environment than
many of the herbicide products currently used in canola production.