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Govts defy public & farmers to push GM crops\n

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Peter Andren MP - Independent Member for Calare

20 May 2003

Govts defy public & farmers to push GM crops

Both the state and federal governments have shown their true colours on genetically modified food crops with the proposed NSW moratorium full of holes and the Commonwealth joining a US challenge to the EU’s ban on GM organisms, according to Peter Andren, Member for Calare.

“The federal government has joined a US push to try and force the European Union to lift its ban on GM food crops because the Europeans “don’t have scientific proof” of dangers to people and the environment, yet it’s preparing for commercial trials here without any proof that it’s safe,” Mr Andren said.

“And the NSW governments proposed moratorium does not ban field trials and allows the Minister to grant exemptions - so it’s a real ‘claytons’ moratorium.

“This is the crux of the debate - there are no definite answers to the many questions about the likely impact of GM food crops - and this is why we need a national moratorium on trials and commercial releases.

“Most farmers in this area say the existing non-GM markets are far greater than any GM opportunity, so why the haste to take up GM?

“Until we have the answers it’s crazy to open the door on what is an irreversible process.

“Last night I addressed a public meeting on GM food crops and reiterated my concern that the unholy haste to push ahead with the commercial release of GM canola is being driven by the chemical companies like Monsanto and Bayer.

“They are being helped along by advisory bodies such as Avcare, Agrifood, and the Gene Technology Grains Committee that are industry-based, rather than independent of the issue.

“These companies have invested a lot of time and money in developing the gene technology which will complement their weed control products and deliver them a captive market.

“If a farmer buys GM canola from a company, the contract includes buying that company’s weed control product, paying a licence fee for the technology, paying royalties on the yield and then buying more seed from them again.

“These impacts are not being examined by the Gene Tech Regulator as she decides on the go-ahead for the first commercial trials. Nor is the potential for loss of market share for our non-GM crops because of contamination risks and the cost of implementing buffer zones for farmers.

“There is also the risk of litigation - in Canada, a farmer whose non-GM crop was contaminated by wind-borne GM-canola was sued by the company for ‘stealing’ their technology!

“The Gene Tech Regulator is still taking submissions in regard to allowing the first commercial release of GM canola and I encourage people to get their submissions in by next Monday 26 May 2003 and to continue to lobby for a national moratorium on GM food crops,” Mr Andren said.

“Contact the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator on 1800 181 030 for information about lodging a submission,” he added.

For more information: 02 6332 6229 or 0419 612 891

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