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Daily Bread Or Dread? -

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The board of Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) recently permitted the importation of
the 48th GM food to Australia. However, there are only two food crops approved for growing in
Australia - canola and cotton - and many would like to see no more grown until rigorous safety
testing is carried out. The Greenpeace activists keen to highlight their concerns over the
commercial interests in patented traits and the lack of information surrounding testing, recently
razed a GM wheat crop under trial by the CSIRO. Mark Horstman seeks out the views of the research
scientists and the concerned activists.

NARRATION

For some, GM food promises to feed the world. For others, it's the devil in disguise.

Laura Kelly

We just don't believe that we can let our bread be genetically modified. Like, um, I hate to think
of my kids and my grandkids growing up never having tasted natural bread.

Dr James Neilsen

If people had a real understanding of food production in Australia, and understood how conventional
food was produced, then they might understand that you know, GM solutions are actually really good
for them.

Dr Craig Cormick

If I just started to talk to you and I found out your, your philosophy of life was about a green
lifestyle for the planet, you're against multi-national control, you didn't have much trust in
government or regulators, good chance you'll also be opposed to GM food, without any real knowledge
of what GM food was.

Mark Horstman

I reckon I'm environmentally aware and scientifically literate, but you know, trying to get to
grips with the safety of GM food is like getting lost in the long grass. And the science just
doesn't have all the answers.

Dr Craig Cormick

While a large amount of people have very small concerns about GM foods, a small amount of people
have very large concerns about GM foods. The bulk of the population of Australia, about seventy per
cent, sit around about in the middle.

Mark Horstman

You know what GM stands for?

Teenage Girl

No idea.

NARRATION

Over the last decade, Craig Cormick has been researching our attitudes to genetic modification.

Dr Craig Cormick

One thing we find, attitudes to GM food's almost never about the science of genetic modification.
Because they're about people's values, and then their life values often, and become very emotive,
because food's very emotive for many people.

Mark Horstman

What if I said genetically modified food?

Teenage Girl

Oh yeah.

Mark Horstman

What does that mean, do you reckon?

Teenage Girl

Food that's been made by humans, not naturally.

Woman A

Well I guess the science people have actually interfered with the genetic makeup of the product.

NARRATION

Craig finds that most people in Australia are slightly more willing to eat food with GM ingredients
than food containing chemicals or preservatives. But it also depends whether you're talking about
whole foods or processed food.

Dr Craig Cormick

Lamingtons have many products in them, and one of the ingredients is canola oil. And so that canola
oil could well come from a genetically modified canola plant. Would that make any difference to
your perception of whether you'd eat these or not?

Man

No.

Woman B

Um, because it's such a small ingredient I probably wouldn't worry about it as much.

Dr Craig Cormick

Generally nine out of ten people who've just said they're concerned about GM to some extent, will
say, 'Oh, yeah I'd eat those.' But when you put a whole fruit or vegetable on the table, very
different. In Hawaii almost all the papayas are genetically modified.

Woman A

Are they?

Dr Craig Cormick

A gene is inserted into them.

Woman A

Okay.

Dr Craig Cormick

Now if you were given a choice, would you rather or rather not eat a papaya that had genetic
modification?

Woman A

I'd rather not.

Woman C

I'd prefer not to, no.

Man

Do you have an explanation why?

Dr Craig Cormick

There's a perception that whole foods are whole and shouldn't be tinkered with and so on.

Man

Okay, yeah.

Dr Craig Cormick

But snack foods, processed foods aren't so good for you anyway, so it doesn't matter so much.

Man

Oh, okay, interesting.

Dr Paul Brent

Well our Board just um, approved forty, the forty-eighth food, GM food to be imported into
Australia. There are only two food crops - canola and cotton - and they're herbicide tolerant,
insect resistant. There's also six carnations and there's one rose. And we're assuming nobody's
eating those.

NARRATION

That's forty-eight GM foods approved, and none rejected.

Dr Paul Brent

For the most part, we take the data that's generated from the company. I mean, it's their product.
And there are checks and balances in terms of us using that data.

NARRATION

But the science is in dispute - not only for what is investigated, but for the independence of the
research.

Laura Kelly

We would always ask people to follow the money, and ask questions about whose interests science is
being commercialised in favour of.

NARRATION

That's why early one foggy morning near Canberra, Greenpeace activists allegedly mowed down the
CSIRO's trial crop of GM wheat.

Laura Kelly

I think when your Australian public, taxpayer-funded science body can be conducting the first human
feeding trials in the world, of a potentially risky, unstable genetically modified product, and not
need to tell you what health and safety considerations were made, and what ethical considerations
went into the testing, because that information is commercial-in-confidence, then there's something
um, seriously wrong with the state of public science in Australia.

NARRATION

Laura Kelly fears that since deregulation of the Australian Wheat Board, biotech companies are
poised to control the future of our wheat industry.

Laura Kelly

Monsanto stands to gain billions by attaching a patent to our wheat. The main chemical used in
Australia's wheat industry is Roundup. The bulk of GM crops on the market are Roundup resistant,
and Monsanto owns ninety per cent of the patents on those crops, which come with a contractual
obligation to use Monsanto's Roundup-ready chemicals.

NARRATION

James Neilsen manages Monsanto's existing GM products in Australia, such as insect resistant cotton
genes, and herbicide-tolerant canola.

Dr James Neilsen

Obviously Australia's a big market for wheat, but it's not something that we're doing at the
moment, but it's certainly something I'm sure we would look at into the future.

Laura Kelly

Our concerns in relation to the work that CSIRO is doing, is that it is compromised by their
corporate links.

Dr James Neilsen

Monsanto's had absolutely no involvement with that, with that CSIRO trial site um, in Canberra.

Laura Kelly

When these GM wheat trials were proposed and approved, there was two directors of Nufarm on the
board of the CSIRO. Um, Nufarm is the exclusive distributor of Monsanto's Roundup ready products in
Australia.

Dr James Neilsen

The science of CSIRO or the science of Monsanto, aren't, aren't compromised, and things are done
very independently as part of scientific process.

NARRATION

CSIRO is using both GM and non-GM techniques to develop wheat with more benefits for human health.

Laura Kelly

They were already developing a non-GM ah, high-amylose and high-resistant starch trait using marker
resistant selection and conventional breeding. That just didn't have the same patent attraction to
the corporations they rely on for funding.

Mark Horstman

[Inaudible] What's happened to that research now? Is that ...?

Laura Kelly

Yeah, that, I'd love for you to ask. I mean, it could still be in process.

NARRATION

That's what we asked the scientist overseeing the CSIRO wheat trials.

Dr Matthew Morell

This particular project has always had a GM and a non-GM component to it. And it has nothing to do
with any of the funding arrangements for the project.

NARRATION

But to publish, scientists need approval from the owner of the genetic patent.

I'm a researcher, I've got a test going on the impact of a gene of which Monsanto owns a patent.

Mark Horstman

If it comes to the crunch, can you veto my research if you don't like the results?

Dr James Neilsen

I guess it's a matter of working with that researcher at the start, and working on what they're
trying to establish and working through the science of the whole process. I think that's the key. I
guess you know, there, there potentially would be the opportunity for the, the research not to go
ahead.

NARRATION

Outside the GM world, away from potential corporate control, scientists want to focus on the soil
rather than the plant gene.

Dr Maarten Stapper

GM farming doesn't do anything for the soil. The plants just grow in it, so if the soil is bad and
degraded, the GM plant can't improve.

NARRATION

Maarten Stapper believes agriculture should rely on nature rather than GM technology.

Dr Maarten Stapper

What we have to do is, we have to change the whole farming world to making the soils healthy, with
more carbon and activating the biology. And then that healthy soil, with the high carbon and active
biology, will change the expression of the current genes. All these marvellous things that, that GM
has, that promises for solutions, we get the current farming with biology.

NARRATION

GM is seeking public support by promising new foods to improve human health. When it comes to GM
wheat in staple foods like our daily bread, will that demand a more rigorous testing process?

Dr Paul Brent

If many staples were, were having their nutrient profiles changed, then we may get to a stage where
these changes in nutrients may actually become a problem. If everybody is modifying nutrient
profiles, you may actually get too much of a good thing. So we do take that into account, so
that's, that is a very good question.

Topics: Genetics & DNA

Reporter: Mark Horstman

Producer: Mark Horstman

Researcher: Faye Welborn

Camera: Adam Wyatt

Peter Watts

Richard Cole

Toby Hunt

Sound: Peter Howe

Chris West

Grant Roberts

Adam Kennedy

Editor: Chris Spurr

Story Contacts

Dr Paul Brent

Chief Scientist

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)

Canberra

Laura Kelly

Genetic Engineering Campaign Team Leader

Greenpeace Australia

Sydney

Dr Craig Cormick

Public Awareness and Engagement

Dept of Innovation, Industry, Science & Research

Canberra

Dr James Neilsen

Technology Development Lead

Monsanto Australia

Melbourne

Dr Maarten Stapper

Farming Systems Agronomist

ACT

Related Info

Greenpeace Australia report 2011 - "Wheat Scandal"

CSIRO Plant Industry - "New wheat promises dual benefits"

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)

DIISR reports - "Community Attitudes to Biotechnology"

Biologic AgFoods - Dr Maarten Stapper

The Mulloon Institute - natural farming techniques

Monsanto Australia