Australians still wary about GM food / Liability lessons for NZ (8/7/2006)

1.New German GMO Liability Law Carries Lessons to NZ
2.Australians still wary about GM food

EXCERPTS: ...when the respondents were asked about genetically modified crops or animals, their reaction was decidedly more negative.

"That was the stand-out from our point of view," Gilding says. "Overall, people are still very uncomfortable with those technologies". (item 2)

1.New German GMO Liability Law Carries Lessons to NZ
Press Release: Sustainability Council of New Zealand, 3 July 2006

Germany's approach to setting new GMO liability law provides an important example for New Zealand, states a paper released today by the Sustainability Council.

The German Government has sought to explicitly allocate liability for the financial risks arising from the cultivation of GMOs and to protect non-GM farmers. This is in sharp contrast to New Zealand's law that leaves major gaps and implicitly allocates risk and costs to innocent parties.

New Zealand law specific to GMOs imposes strict liability only if an activity is carried out contrary to an ERMA approval. There is no statutory liability for damage arising from unexpected effects or inadequate regulatory control of known risks.

Internationally, liability law is emerging as the crux issue for regulation of GMO cultivation. Wider recognition of the costs and difficulties involved in keeping GM crops separate from conventional plantings have reinforced the importance of a clear allocation of liability.

Austria and Norway were early leaders in establishing a strict liability standard for damage arising from GMOs in the mid 1990s. More recent reviews by the Governments of Denmark, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have also determined that conventional farmers should not bear the costs of GMO contamination.

Germany's recently revised law addresses key issues for non-GM farmers, including:

*Details of any GMO planting must be made available in advance on a publicly accessible register; *There is no requirement for harm to have been foreseeable for a claim to succeed; *Following "good practice" (for example, efforts by GM adopters to limit the flow of GMOs beyond the farm boundary) is of itself not a defence.

A second stage of law reform, including the proposed creation of a compensation fund, is scheduled to proceed during the northern summer.

Germany's Liability Law for GMO Cultivation was written by Anja Gerdung and commissioned by the Sustainability Council in order to provide a clear English language description of the influential German law reforms.

The report is available at: http://www.sustainabilitynz.org/docs/GermanLiabilityLawforGMCultivation.pdf


2.Australians still wary about GM food
ABC, 30 June 2006

[image caption: Only 30% of people surveyed felt comfortable with GM plants for food and only 18% felt comfortable with GM animals for food]

Australians are becoming more comfortable with new technologies like stem cell research but still have strong reservations about genetically modified foods, a new survey shows.

The survey conducted by the Australian Centre for Emerging Technologies and Society Swinburne University in Melbourne, asked more than 1000 people about their views on emerging technologies

"Overall, Australians are optimistic about science and technology," says Professor Michael Gilding, director of the centre that conducted the survey, the Swinburne National Technology and Science Monitor

The poll has been conducted each year since 2003 and the latest results were gathered in 2005.

"The interesting thing about the last three years is that people seem to be becoming more comfortable with the technologies that we've been monitoring," Gilding says.

On the subject of stem cell research, Australians seem to be more comfortable compared to 2004, the survey shows.

Research conducted in public institutes garnered a higher approval rating, and men tended to be more comfortable than women with the research.

But when the respondents were asked about genetically modified crops or animals, their reaction was decidedly more negative.

"That was the stand-out from our point of view," Gilding says. "Overall, people are still very uncomfortable with those technologies."

Only 30% said they were comfortable with GM plants for food, the researchers found.

When respondents were asked to rate their comfort level with GM crops, they gave an average score of 3.9 on a scale where zero was 'not at all comfortable' and 10 represented 'very comfortable'.

The survey also found that just 18% of people were comfortable with genetically modifying animals for food, giving an average score of 3.1 out of a possible 10.<

In the end, people are probably weighing the perceived risks of GM foods against their benefits, Gilding suggests. "I suppose the bottom line is that they don't see any benefit for themselves."

Craig Cormick, manager of public awareness for the government's Biotechnology Australia, says that broad questions about attitudes to GM food can miss subtleties in the way people think about the issue.

For example, individuals will view the risks and benefits of GM foods differently depending on the food, he says. "Attitudes to GM wheat will be different to doughnuts with GM soy in them."

In other findings, the survey showed that 80% of people agreed that science and technology are continuously improving our quality of life. This figure has been consistently high since the first survey in 2003.

Respondents also said they most strongly trusted science information they get from the CSIRO, universities, hospitals and scientists. In general, they did not trust the media.

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