GM opponents angry over canola approval (25/7/2003)

* Greenpeace slams GM canola decision
* GM opponents angry over canola approval
* GM crops ban
Greenpeace slams GM canola decision
ABC Newsonline, Fri, 25 Jul 2003

The federal gene technology regulator is being accused of failing to protect Australian agriculture by approving the nation's first genetically modified commercial food crop.

The regulator, Dr Sue Meek, has approved the release of Bayer's hybrid canola [OSR] saying the genetically modified crop is as safe to the public and the environment as conventional canola.

Greenpeace campaigner Jeremy Tager says the decision ignores deep divisions in Australia's scientific community and the concerns of the farm industry.

Mr Tager says the approval of the crop undermines the regulators credibility.

"It demonstrates an utter failure of the regulatory system, obviously there is a need to look very closely both at the act and at the kind of the standards that the regulator is using in making her decisions, it is fairly ludicrous for a federal regulator to be approving for broad commercial release in all Australian states a crop that no Australian state wants to grow," she said.
GM opponents angry over canola approval
ABC Newsonline

State and territory governments are being urged to oppose the approval of Australia's first genetically modified (GM) commercial food crop by extending their own moratoriums on the crops.

The Gene Technology regulator, Dr Sue Meek, has announced approval of the release of Bayer's hybrid canola, after an evaluation process found it does not pose any risks to the community.

Greenpeace says the decision is an utter regulatory failure that ignores deep divisions in Australia's scientific community and the concerns of the farm industry.

Anti-GM campaigner Jeremy Tager says the protection of Australian agriculture rests in the hands of the states.

"We want to make sure that the states reinforce their moratoria and bring in legislation that will set the bar at a standard that is acceptable to the broader community," Mr Tager said.

Dr Meek has told the ABC's AM program the application went through a stringent evaluation process and she is confident it does not pose any risks to the community.

"This is a scientific risk assessment process and of course you can never get a scientist or anyone with science training to say there's zero risk, but I would say that the level of consultation, the depth of the analysis that is done, we have a very, very high level of confidence in this analysis," she said.

State moratorium

Western Australia's Agriculture Minister, Kim Chance, says the general public has good reason to be concerned about the decision.

Mr Chance says the go-ahead for the release of a hybrid canola is disappointing, given the level of community disquiet.  He says the Government has its own five-year moratorium on the release of commercial GM crops and has legislation before State Parliament to restrict any marketing impact of the decision in Western Australia.

The New South Wales State Minister for Agriculture, Ian McDonald, has today enacted a three-year moratorium on the commercial production of GM modified canola.

He says research will continue during the three-year period to ascertain the economic and social impacts of GM modified foods.

The ACT Government is proposing a three-year moratorium on growing GM crops.  But it does not want to ban research on GM organisms, because such research is important to institutions like the CSIRO.

The Grains Council says state governments should drop their opposition to GM crop production.  Grains Council president Keith Perrett says the moratoriums should now be lifted.

Angry reaction

There has been an angry reaction from non-GM producers.

All states apart from Queensland have moratoriums preventing GM planting, although some farmers are concerned this will cause them to be left behind in terms of the benefits of the technology.

But those campaigning against it, like the Network of Concerned Farmers, are angry the GM-free side of the industry has been left unprotected.

"Disgusted, I think would be more to the point," said national spokesperson Julie Newman.

The Australian Democrats say there is an urgent need for a much broader assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of genetically modified crops.

The Democrats' Agriculture spokesman, Senator John Cherry, says the approval is based on an incomplete assessment of GM crops.

"Because the regulator has a very narrow mandate and that's the thing the Democrats are concerned about," Mr Cherry said.

"The assessment today, while it has been done on the basis of 300 reports, its on a very narrow set of health and environmental impacts.

"We haven't looked at the economic case, we haven't looked at the broader environmental case, we haven't looked at the impact on the agricultural industry generally and that's the work that now needs to be done."

The Shadow Primary Industries Minister, Kerry O'Brien, says the decision should not have been made at least until next July when a three-year segregation study is expected to be released on whether it is possible to grow GM plants without contaminating other crops.

Senator O'Brien believes there was pressure on the regulator to announce her approval.

"The regulator has been I think under pressure to complete her process within the timelines established by the legislation and that means we've got a premature decision in my view the regulator couldn't possibly have access to all of the necessary information because that study's not completed," he said.
GM crops ban

GENETICALLY modified crops would be banned in South Australia, except for approved highly regulated trials, under new laws to be introduced by the State Government.
The legislation, to be introduced later this year, would allow limited and controlled research on GM crops to be conducted only with ministerial approval, SA Agriculture Minister Paul Holloway said today.

Trials would not be for commercial purposes and no GM crops would be permitted on Kangaroo Island or the state's Eyre Peninsula, Mr Holloway said.

"The State Government is committed to protecting the state's clean and green reputation by preventing the introduction of GM crops until it is absolutely clear there will be no impact on the integrity of our traditional or organic production systems," he said.

"It is vitally important that we do not place our annual $2 billion field crops industry at risk in the national and international marketplace."

Australia's gene technology watchdog today announced it had issued a licence for the commercial release of GM canola, the first genetically altered food crop to win approval.

Australian Gene Technology Regulator Sue Meek said GM canola was found to be as safe for humans and the environment as conventional canola.

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