Submission to the NSW Review of the Gene Technology (GM Crop Moratorium) Act 2003
27 August 2007
Thank you for the opportunity to register a submission concerning the state moratorium on genetically modified canola. The New South Wales moratorium was introduced in 2003 because of concerns within industry, the farming sector and regional comunities about the impact of GE crops on markets. The concerns that led to the introduction of the moratorium include liability and insurance issues, problems with segregation and cross contamination and export market sensitivities.
In the four years since the moratorium was introduced these concerns have proven highly justified. GE contamination scandals have plagued countries, such as the US, that have adopted GE crops. These have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of lost export revenue and and costly litigation. Segregation of non-GE canola in Canada has failed, leading to the collapse of its non-GE and organic canola industries. Farm incomes in Canada have plumetted since the introduction of GE canola and Canada has entirely lost its canola seed exports to Europe. Furthermore, consumers in Australia, and major export markets such as Europe and Japan, remain resolutely opposed to GE food. Recent studies questioning the science behind GE and the safety of GE food have only served to heighten consumer concern on the issue.
In 2005 Ian MacDonald, the NSW Agriculture Minister stated that at this point the lack of segregation trials means that there has been no practical demonstration of the capacity to segregate GM and non-GM product across the supply chain to differing market standards.[i] He argued that it is important that independent, small-scale agronomy trials of GM canola occur prior to larger-scale segregation trials being conducted to address marketing issues.[ii] This work has still not been completed.
Greenpeace believes that the reasons for a moratorium on commercial GE food crop production are stronger than ever, and that the current moratorium should be extended by a further 5 years.
1. Economic benefits of the moratorium
1.1. Benefits for consumers
Polling by Swinburne University and Biotechnology Australia last year shows that the majority of Australians are uncomfortable with eating GE food and are unlikely to eat it.[iii] Similar attitudes exist in our key export markets, such as Europe and Japan. A survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project shows that Western Europeans and Japanese consumers are overwhelmingly opposed to scientifically altered fruits and vegetables because of health and environmental concerns.[iv] A 2006 poll, by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry (MAFF), found that 78% of Japanese consumers were uncertain about the impacts of eating GE food.[v] The current moratorium has allowed the market to supply what consumers want non-GE canola with a low risk of GE contamination, and without the need for costly segregation and identity preservation (IP) systems. Segregation and IP costs, along with the costs of recalls when the inevitable contamination occurs will invariably be passed on to food companies and, ultimately, to consumers.
1.2. Benefits for user industries
The moratorium has benefited industry in several ways since its implementation. Benefits include:
· price premiums and preferential market access for Australian canola;
· lower production costs, since costly segregation and identity preservation processes are not required;
· an absence of costly recalls due to unwanted GE contamination such as recently happened with rice products in the US;
· a reputation among domestic and export markets for high quality non-GE products.
The issues surrounding market access, price premiums, and segregation costs will be discussed in more detail in the following sections.
1.3. Benefits for farmers
Over the past decade, corporate and government managers have spent millions trying to convince farmers and other citizens of the benefits of genetically-modified (GM) crops. But this huge public relations effort has failed to obscure the truth: GM crops do not deliver the promised benefits; they create numerous problems, costs, and risks; and Canadian consumers and foreign customers alike do not want these crops.
It would be too generous even to call GM crops a solution in search of a problem: These crops have failed to provide significant solutions, and their use is creating problems agronomic, environmental, economic, social, and (potentially) human health problems.
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