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Democrats call for policy and control on 'pharm' foods.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Australian Democrats Science and Biotechnology Spokesperson 20 November 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/554

Democrats Call for Policy and Control on ‘Pharm’ Foods

The Australian Government appears to have been caught off guard in relation to genetically modified food crops containing pharmaceuticals, according to the Australian Democrats’ Science and Biotechnology spokesperson, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja.

After repeated questions this week in the Senate, the lack of information on this burgeoning industry is cause for concern.

“It has been reported that an American bio-tech company is being investigated for allegedly contaminating food crops destined for humans with genetically modified corn,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“The corn contained a pig vaccine and was not intended for human consumption. This story raises major concerns for Australia.

“The Democrats have consistently expressed our concerns with the current GM regime. However, this new GM threat raises issues that go well beyond other GM threats.

“We need to know whether there are any such pharmaceutically based genetically modified crops being developed in Australia.

“We want to know if such research is taking place, whether it is being funded with taxpayer funds and what kind of protocols and protection are in place,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“For instance, is there a policy that prohibits the open-field testing of such GM crops, in order to ensure that other crops and other plants aren’t contaminated with drugs, contraceptives or vaccines?

“Is there any evidence that GM drug plants are not a threat to farmer and community health?

“How is public access to pharmaceuticals contained in crops to be controlled and safety ensured?

“Are there any protocols in place that ensure that the development of such radical techniques aren’t abused?

“For instance, is it possible to manufacture illicit drugs through these techniques?

“Is it possible to manufacture plants that are hazardous, even fatal, if consumed by humans and how is the Government going to ensure that these technologies are not widely available or used by organisations for terrorism purposes?

“The development of GM drug plants is a burgeoning industry and a well informed and precautionary approach is critical, yet it appears the Government has given this issue very little consideration,” concluded Senator Stott Despoja.

Senator Stott Despoja’s Questions Without Notice on this issue are available. For media inquiries please contact Serena Rogers on 0419 833 571