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GMO-FREE REGIONS & PRODUCTS: Victoria (Australia) discusses end ofGE crop moratorium



                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Remember GM is bankrolled by Big Agribusiness
SOURCE: The Age, Australia
AUTHOR: Editorial
URL:    http://www.theage.com.au/news/editorial/remember-gm-is-
bankrolled-by-big-agribusiness/2007/05/12/1178899167403.html
DATE:   13.05.2007
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Remember GM is bankrolled by Big Agribusiness

GENETIC modification. What is it and will it hurt us? That question has
suddenly come closer to home with the news that Victoria is set to break
ranks with other states by ending a moratorium on GM.

First, a definition: GM is the insertion of a gene from one species to
another. This is not the selective or cross-breeding of plants and
animals, practised for eons. Rather, it is the radical re-arranging of
the genetic building blocks of life. Such research is at the frontier of
knowledge, and includes huge advances like decoding the human genome --
undoubtedly a milestone in curing illnesses.

But that's not to be confused with what is happening down on the farm.
The proposed end of the GM ban in Victoria is about agriculture.
Cultivating canola or cabbages might seem dull compared with human
genome research but, in fact, it is more contentious because ultimately
it's about the food we eat -- the right to choose whether to eat
genetically modified food or not.

The debate is also about which corporations will control the world's
food. Even if we ignore the ethical and health issues that GM's
opponents raise, there could be sound commercial motives for keeping
Australia GM free.

If overseas markets are prepared to pay dearly for GM-free food,
Australia is in pole position to exploit its "clean green" image. The
claimed advantages of GM crops have been well-aired. They include higher
yields and oil content and herbicide resistance.

Now the pro-GM publicity machine is highlighting the potential to create
crops that use less water.

Such claims might prove true but we should be clear about one thing: GM
is bankrolled by huge multi-national corporations that stand to make
huge money. That is why they can afford the best spin doctors and
lobbyists that money can buy. To ask Big Agribusiness about GM is a
little like consulting Big Tobacco about the risks of smoking.


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  So much for growing GM crops
SOURCE: The Age, Australia
AUTHOR: Stephen Cauchi
URL:    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/so-much-for-growing-gm-
crops/2007/05/12/1178899169250.html
DATE:   13.05.2007
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


So much for growing GM crops

IN AUSTRALIA, as far as genetically modified crops and food are
concerned, there is a finely tuned list as to what is allowed and what isn't.

Non-food GM crops are fine. Cotton and blue, violet, mauve, and purple
carnations have been grown commercially for many years.

Not so with food GM crops. These have been grown for more than a decade
in Australia, but only on a trial basis. Canola, sugarcane, barley,
wheat, grapevine and Indian mustard are some of these GM crops.

Even though the Federal Government's Office of the Gene Technology
Regulator has approved some commercial GM food crops such as canola, the
states have vetoed this by imposing moratoriums.

So much for growing GM crops. How about eating them? Some countries
produce GM food crops, notably the US, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, China
and South Africa.

The US is the biggest producer of GM crops. Three-quarters of processed
foods in the US have a GM ingredient. Nearly 90 per cent of soybeans, 83
per cent of cotton, and 61 per cent of maize is genetically modified.

GM soybeans, corn products, potatoes, sugar beet, canola oil and
cottonseed oil are used in processed foods imported to Australia. No
other vegetables, fruit, meat, fish or agricultural products sold in
Australia are GM.

Cottonseed oil can be produced from Australian GM cotton, and can be
found in vegetable oils and margarines.


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


                                 PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  GM food in Victorian shops soon
SOURCE: The Age, Australia
AUTHOR: Jason Koutsoukis
URL:    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/gm-food-in-victorian-
shops-soon/2007/05/12/1178899169197.html
DATE:   May 13, 2007
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GM food in Victorian shops soon

VICTORIA is set to lift its ban on planting genetically modified food
crops as early as February next year, paving the way for a rush of new
food varieties on supermarket shelves.

Under pressure from the Federal Government and farm groups, the Bracks
Government is preparing to scrap the moratorium that stops farmers using
genetically modified products.

Other states are expected to follow Victoria's lead, which GM supporters
predict could cause a surge in agricultural productivity, with farmers
able to plant crops resistant to weeds, insects and salinity and that
need less water.

Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran has told The Sunday Age it
is time for Australia to move on. "I strongly believe in the
environmental and economic benefits of GM crops," Mr McGauran said.

"Farmers have much to gain, particularly in times of drought, from
growing GM crops such as wheat and canola that use less water and
herbicides than conventional crops," he said.

"Our farmers will endure significantly higher costs, for no greater
return -- and consume more water than necessary -- if they are prevented
from adopting GM technology.

"But for farmers to benefit, Victoria must lift its moratorium on GM crops."

Sources close to Premier Steve Bracks say the government is satisfied
there is almost zero risk associated with GM crops and the ban "will be
allowed to expire next year".

Victorian Agriculture Minister Joe Helper told The Sunday Age that the
moratorium would expire on 29 February next year and signalled publicly
for the first time that the Government had an open mind when it came to
genetically modified crops.

"In the coming months, as the end of the moratorium approaches, the
Government will be consulting widely with industry groups and the
community," Mr Helper said.

"The federal Office of Gene Technology Regulator is responsible for the
regulation of human and environmental-health issues, while the states
have responsibility for marketing and production issues.

"Issues in Victoria are centred on what impact the use of the technology
would have on our trade markets, which requires a careful and considered
approach," he said.

"The Bracks Government continues to support research that assists our
farmers to remain competitive in international markets."

No state allows the planting of any GM food crops for commercial
purposes, although NSW and Queensland do allow the planting of GM cotton.

Victoria, also, allows the commercial cultivation of genetically
modified carnations.

But Australian scientists working under the auspices of the CSIRO and
the Grains Research and Development Corporation are involved in research
into ways to genetically modify plants to produce different effects.
These include resistance to drought and implanting extra health
benefits, such as the essential fatty acid Omega 3, into plant varieties.

The federal Minister for Trade, Warren Truss, labelled the state bans on
genetically modified crops as "idiotic" and said there was "absolutely
no danger to any of Australia's export markets if we allowed GM crops".

"It's often been argued by the opponents of GMOs (genetically modified
organisms) that somehow or other our trade will be disadvantaged and it
is nonsense," Mr Truss said.

"We were told that if we steer clear of GM crops there will be premiums
and bonuses for our products around the world, but those premiums simply
do not exist. It's a myth. They have never eventuated.

"Canada, the major exporter of GM canola, continues to increase market share."

Mr Truss said that while Australian farmers were being forced to stand
still, "we are being left behind by farmers in India, China and North
America who are enthusiastically grabbing this new technology".

National Farmers Federation chief executive Ben Fargher strongly backed
the widespread introduction of GM crops.

"The integration of GM into our production systems could yield a variety
of benefits and reduced pesticide and herbicide use and increase water
use efficiency, drought resistance and increase crop yields," Mr Fargher said.

"We're very focused on the potential benefits and ... on the issue of
choice for farmers over whether they want to use the technology or not.

"The regulatory system we have ... through the Office of the Gene
Technology Regulator is recognised as one of the most stringent in the world."

Greenpeace Australia spokeswoman Louise Sales said introducing GM crops
posed huge dangers and Greenpeace did not support any loosening of the
moratorium.


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


                                 PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Healthy or harmful: the big debate
SOURCE: The Age, Australia
AUTHOR: Stephen Cauchi
URL:    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/healthy-or-harmful-the-
big-debate/2007/05/12/1178899169227.html
DATE:   May 13, 2007
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Healthy or harmful: the big debate

HEALTHY superfood or harmful Frankenfood? That's the consumer's view of
the genetically modified food debate. Farmers have their own issues. For
example, is it possible to quarantine GM crops and seeds from farms that
wish to grow conventionally, or is cross-breeding inevitable?

GM food is produced by taking DNA from one organism and inserting it
into the genome of another, with the aim of producing new and useful
traits. There's a very long list of improvements: insect-resistant
maize, herbicide-tolerant cotton, long-life tomatoes, rice with boosted
levels of minerals and vitamins, plants resistant to salinity and
drought, rice that can double as rehydration therapy for diarrhoea -- to
name a few. In future there could be bananas that produce human
vaccines, fish that mature quickly and fruit and nut trees that yield earlier.

GM advocates say poor countries, where food is often scarce and
agricultural conditions harsh, would benefit most from GM. Modified rice
that has extra vitamins and minerals could alleviate the vitamin A
deficiency that contributes to the death of millions of Africans and
blindness in hundreds of thousands.

Although bodies such as Australia's Office of the Gene Technology
Regulator carry out a thorough safety assessment of GM food, opponents
say the technology is new, and there have been no studies of the long-
term effects on human health.

Critics point out that food shortages in developing countries have
usually more to do with politics, economics and population than hi-tech
developments. Shortages of vitamin A, for example, could be addressed by
growing pumpkins instead of modified rice.

That's the debate for consumers. On the production side, farmers are
split on GM. Some farmers' groups such as the National Farmers'
Federation support GM. Others, like the Network of Concerned Farmers, do not.

According to the NCF policy on GM, there are many reasons why farmers
should reject GM. Contamination by GM crops into non-GM farms is one of
the major concerns. "Contamination of GM crops into non-GM crops is
considered uncontrollable and scientifically proven to be so.

"If GM crops are introduced, the non-GM farmers are expected to keep
contamination out of their crop rather than have the GM farmer keep it
contained."

Then there is the marketing angle. "Australia has a clean green image
which we need to preserve. Many of our export markets, and much of the
domestic market does not want to buy GM crops."

And, say the NCF, it is expensive to segregate GM produce from
conventional produce -- as much as $35 a tonne, or 10 per cent of the
product value. "Costs include buffer zones, time spent for rigorous
cleanup regimes, separate segregation, testing ... liability for product
and supply chain contamination cleanup could extend to millions of
dollars and may be uninsurable."

On the other side, the NFF -- and the Victorian Farmers' Federation --
point to the "clear benefits" of GM crops, which have "the potential to
reduce pesticide and herbicide use, increase water efficiency, tolerate
adverse growing conditions and improve yields".

And will GM endanger Australia's market reputation as "clean and green"?
The NFF believe that any "price premiums" farmers could gain on the
world stage by being GM-free are marginal at best. "There is little
evidence to suggest that premiums will be forthcoming," say the NFF.


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


                                 PART V
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  GM crucial to combat global warming impact, researcher
SOURCE: Food Navigator, France
AUTHOR: Jess Halliday
URL:    http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/ng.asp?n=76473-gm-salinity-
climate-change
DATE:   11.05.2007
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


GM crucial to combat global warming impact, researcher

11/05/2007 - As agricultural conditions change as a result of global
warming, genetically-modified crops will have an increasing role to play
in safeguarding food supply for the future, says a leading researcher
who thinks the issue will increase pressure for consumer acceptance.

Genetic modification (GM) is amongst the most fiercely debated issues in
the food industry today. Proponents have said since the earliest days
that they hold particular benefits for the developing world, where
agricultural conditions are harsh and unstable.

But consumers in some places, especially Europe, remain resistant to
genetic modification - despite regulatory approvals opening the door to
imports of GM crops.

Arguments against GM include fears over the potential effects on human
health, concerns that GM crops will upset the ecological balance by
cross-pollinating natural crops, and mistrust of biotech giants who have
already made fortunes on the back of the technology.

Professor Mark Tester, a plant genomics researcher at the University of
Adelaide's Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and fellow of
the Australian Research Council Federation, believes that GM will hold
benefits for the whole world, not just developing countries, as global
warming is changing conditions everywhere.

"Trying to grow plants in Australian conditions, as in many countries
around the world where the conditions are harsh, is challenging, and it
is likely to get harder under the effects of climate change," he said.

For instance, Australia - like other countries - is presently
experiencing increasing levels of salinity. Around 5.7 m hectares of
soil are affected, with efforts to combat the problem costing an
estimated A$270 m a year.

But Prof Tester thinks acceptance of GM will have to increase, if we are
to avoid food shortages. It has been estimated that world food grain
production will need to double by 2050 as the world's population
continues to swell.

Against this backdrop, Prof Tester said: "There is no doubt that as
farmers face reduced yields, they will need all the tools they can get
to help them grow our food sustainably and economically. Genetic
modification can help accelerate improvements in crop plants to enable
them to better cope with the rapidly changing environment."

Tester and his team are working on identifying genes that make some
plants more tolerant to hostile environments like drought, salinity and frost.

Once identified, his team works to use these genes in plants that are
suitable for commercial production, using both conventional breeding and
genetic modification techniques.

"Our results in the laboratory suggest great promise for the rapid
development of crops with increased salt tolerance," said Tester.


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


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