GENET archive


GMO-FREE REGIONS & POLICY: GMO moratoria in Australia: Federal Government report supports GE canola

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia



DATE:   13.08.2007

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The Federal Government says a new report on genetically modified (GM) crops is proof the technology is safe and poses no risk to human health or the environment.

Green groups are furious, saying they do not want the state governments to stick with the existing ban on GM farming, but to extend the moratorium by at least five years.

But farmers say Australian growers cannot afford to miss out on opportunities enjoyed by GM farmers overseas.

But the Federal Government says the science is in and the latest report on GM crops is proof that state bans on the technology should be lifted immediately.

John Lush is a South Australian farmer and says the country is on the backfoot.

”Right now I’m being left behind by farmers around the world, I mean there are three million farmers around the world adopting GM crops and benefiting hugely,” he said.

Mr Lush is also a member of the Government’s Biotechnology Advisory Committee and he told ABC local radio in Sydney he is prepared to risk it all.

”Any crops that we grow that are GM have got to go through the Australian food safety standards and they’re the most stringent in the world, so I would say the foods from GM crops will be the safest in the world,” he said.

”I think there’s a lot of fear mongering going on and I think the world markets are accepting of these technologies now and I’m willing to bet my livelihood on it.”


Benefits ’at a cost’

But Bob Phelps from the Gene Ethics Network says the benefits will come at huge cost.

”These gene manipulated crops are crops that will be sprayed more often and at higher doses with synthetic chemicals, those chemicals will leave residues in our food and in our environment, they will also lead to greater weediness, which will be very expensive for land managers in Australia,” he said.

”It’s not environmentally friendly, it poses hazards to public health and it will also mean Australians will lose premiums in overseas markets for GM-free canola.”

Mr Phelps also says it is ludicrous to suggest that some farmers are missing out and cannot compete with farmers overseas who are using the GM technology.

”That’s just wrong ... and it’s a handful of self-interested industrial farmers that are claiming this, family-farmers should hear that over 80 per cent of all canola in the world is GM free,” he said.

”The only producers of GM canola are Canada and the USA and it’s their influence through their corporations Bayer and Monsanto that are trying to get us into their camp. They want to take away everybody’s choice - not give the choice to farmers that they claim.”

Ben Fargher, from the National Farmers Federation (NFF), says his organisation supports choice.

”We think that farmers should be able to utilise the technology if they see fit. But that should not compromise other producers’ ability to use conventional production techniques or organic techniques if they see fit also,” he said.

”We also think that regulatory framework in this country enables us to do that, it’s a very strong and stringent one and we support choice and for that reason we think state governments should lift the moratorium on GM crops.”


Aust ’missing out’

Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran says Australia cannot afford to miss out on the benefits of GM crops.

If a recent survey is to be believed, 70 per cent of Australians agree.

Craig Cormick is from Biotechnology Australia, which has tracked public opinion on GM technology since 1999.

”We see people in our focus groups who are large organic consumers and they say things like ’four to five years ago I wouldn’t have been interested in GM, I’m quite against it, but I’m thinking the state of the planet is in such a dire state that we have to start looking at new solutions’,” he said.

”The quote we heard over and over again was we need to find man-made solutions to man-made problems.

”People [may not] understand how mobile phones works... but they know what they get from it and it’s the same with lots of gene technology, nano technology and other new technologies.

”People are not fixated or hung up on the detail... but they’re very much want to know on what it might offer them.”

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: The Age, Australia

AUTHOR: Philip Hopkins


DATE:   14.08.2007

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THE Australian grains industry has upped the ante in its push for the introduction of genetically modified crops, saying it is ready to plant and handle GM canola.

Key grains industry organisations have endorsed a report that says the grains supply chain has the practices and processes in place to manage GM canola in the 2008 season. The groups include ABB, GrainCorp, Cargill, CBH, Australian Oilseeds Federation, Monsanto Australia, Nufarm, Riverland Oilseeds, the National Farmers Federation and state farmer organisations.

The report, Delivering market choice with GM canola, was prepared by Single Vision Grains Australia.

Its release coincides with the publication of two similar studies: FutureCrop, by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, which also discusses conventional non-GM methods to crop improvement; and GM Canola — an information package, prepared by ACIL Tasman for the Australian Government.

Four states are now reviewing their individual moratoriums on planting GM canola.

Single Vision argues that the number of farmers planting GM crops worldwide will double within a decade — from 10.3 million now in 22 countries to 20 million farmers in 40 countries by 2015.

”Corn, soybean, cotton and canola comprise the top four GM commodities globally,” Single Vision said.

”Over 85 per cent of the Canadian canola crop is now sown to GM varieties and these have been marketed successfully for over a decade.”

The National Farmers Federation said state governments should recognise gene technology’s role in creating better and more drought-resistant crops, and enhancing Australian agriculture’s competitiveness.

”Australian farmers have been left behind by an international marketplace that has already embraced GM as a safe and viable science,” said NFF president David Crombie. ”What was once a prudent wait-and-see policy, is no longer viable.”

But Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps said state governments should extend their bans on GM canola until 2013 at least.

”Claims that drought, salt and virus-tolerant crops will soon be available are false and misleading as all the research is only at the good-idea stage of development and cannot be available within 10 years, if ever,” he said.

”GM herbicide-tolerant canola is the only GM crop on offer and, if fairly assessed on its own merits, Australia should leave it alone.”

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: North Queensland Register, Australia

AUTHOR: FarmOnline, Australia


DATE:   13.08.2007

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The anti-genetically modified crops lobby group, Gene Ethics, has dismissed the Federal Government’s report endorsing GM crops as an election stunt. Gene Ethics director, Bob Phelps, says the report is ”yet another doomed bid for re-election” but claims a Labor government would extend the moratoria. ”A new Federal Government should adopt a more evidence-based, cautious and balanced approach to GM crops and foods,” Mr Phelps said. ”We expect the Federal ALP and Greens to counsel state Labor Governments to extend their bans on GM canola until 2013 at least. ”Howard government policy is grossly biased by contracts for the research and development of GM organisms between bodies such as CSIRO and the GM giants, Bayer and Monsanto.” Mr Phelps disputed claims that drought-, salt- and virus-tolerant crops could soon be available. ”GM herbicide tolerant canola is the only GM crop on offer and, if fairly assessed on its own merits, Australia should leave it alone,” he said. ”The acreage of GM canola grown world-wide stalled in 1999, so Australia would be adopting canola varieties that are rejected in most parts of the world. It’s an absolute dud,” he said. ”An EU review of GM crops published last December found that Bayer and Monsanto got 94pc of the revenues from GM canola in North America, the farmers got 6pc, and shoppers got nothing by way of reduced prices.”

                                  PART 4

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SOURCE: The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

AUTHOR: Jason Koutsoukis


DATE:   12.08.2007

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GENETICALLY modified food poses no danger to human health or the environment and should be given the green light, a confidential Federal Government study has found.

The Department of Agriculture report, titled GM Canola: An Information Package, marked ”confidential” and dated July 2007, has tackled fears surrounding ”smart” crops, recommending they be planted as soon as possible to help farmers compete with the rest of the world.

It has the strong backing of federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran, who is leading the charge to have GM crops widely introduced across Australia. The planting of GM crops is banned in all states except Queensland.

The ban is due to expire in Victoria and NSW early next year, but is under review. With the strong backing of farm groups and the CSIRO, both Victoria and NSW are widely expected to lift the ban. The state government bans relate specifically to canola, which is the only crop not to have received approval for planting by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.

Lifting the ban on GM canola is considered the first step to bringing other crop biotechnologies to the market, such as drought-resistant wheat, new varieties of sugar and nutrition-enhanced fruit and vegetables.

”GM canola offers some solutions to the current problems conventional canola faces in Australia and is likely to make an important contribution to farming systems,” the report states.

But environment and public health groups expressed concern at the prospect of GM crops being allowed in Australia, saying the health and environmental risks were not yet understood. Institute of Health and Environmental Research director Judy Carman, an epidemiologist and senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide, said studies had shown that rats fed a diet of GM canola had recorded increases in their liver weights of about 16per cent.

”These rats were getting swollen livers and yet no more research into why that was happening has ever been done,” Dr Carman said.

”We should be demanding further testing because when you look at the safety aspects, we just don’t know what the potential impacts are.”

Greenpeace Australia spokeswoman Louise Sales said

the Howard Government was under pressure from the US to allow GM crops.

”We are talking about huge US multinationals that are putting huge amounts of pressure on Australia to let their products in the door so they make a profit, but this could destroy our reputation as [being] among the cleanest farmers in the world.”

The report found that GM canola had been used in Canada for the last decade without harm.

”Australia’s main competitor, Canada, has been using genetically modified canola for 10 years with no appreciable loss of market share or price and enjoys significant agronomic benefits from the technology,” the report states.

A recent survey commissioned by the Department of Industry found public support for GM crops had risen dramatically over the past two years.

The survey of 1100 people found 73per cent of Australians approve of the development of GM crops, compared with 46per cent in 2005.

                                  PART 5

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SOURCE: Country News, Australia



DATE:   20.08.2007

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A report recommending Australian farmers be allowed to grow genetically modified crops from next year has been released by the Federal Government.

Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran says the report brings together a wide range of current information on GM crops, particularly canola.

”Covering everything from regulation, supply chain management and market acceptance of GM crops to agronomic, economic and legal liability issues at farm level, this package is intended to make a well-informed contribution to the current debate about the GM crops,” Mr McGauran said.

Queensland is the only Australian state in which GM food crops can be grown, with bans in place in NSW and Victoria under review.

”With reviews of the moratoriums under way in four states, Australian farmers will potentially start growing GM canola from 2008,” he said.

Mr McGauran said Australian farmers stood to gain significantly from the introduction of GM technology.

But there is still strong opposition to GM crops from environmental groups and some health and nutrition experts.

Mr McGauran said the report, entitled GM Canola: An Information Package, provided a positive response to such opposition, pointing out that GM canola has been farmed in other countries for a decade without any reported health problems.

”The study concludes that Australia’s main competitor, Canada, has been growing GM canola for 10 years without any appreciable loss of market share or prices, while enjoying significant agronomic benefits,” Mr McGauran said.

The report, produced by the consultancy firm ACIL Tasman, says GM canola also offers solutions to problems facing conventional canola in Australia.

It listed advantages in winter crop rotations, saying weeds had become resistant to chemicals used in conventional canola cultivation, as had some plant diseases.

”Australian farmers are extremely efficient and innovative producers, but to remain internationally competitive, need to be able to compete,” he said.

                                  PART 6

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------


SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia



DATE:   17.08.2007

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Labor has accused the Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran of trying to stir up a state and commonwealth stoush on genetically modified crops. Mr McGauran has today released a second Government agency report promoting GM canola. He says the Government has a right to advocate on behalf of farmers, and Labor is just sitting on the fence. But Opposition Primary Industries spokesman Kerry O’Brien says the Minister should stay out of state decisions. ”The reality is that the states control their management and picking a fight with the states on an issue where they have fairly clear constitutional responsibility is simply picking a fight for the sake of picking a fight,” he said. Submissions for reviews into bans on GM crops in Victoria and South Australian close today.



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