Columbans warn pro-GM food lobby targeting Australia (16/10/2007)

NOTE: The Columbans are a missionary society (not a religious order) of priests who work in cooperation with Columban Sisters, associate priests and lay people in many countries. The Columbans specifically approach their work from a standpoint of solidarity with the poor and the integrity of creation.


Columbans warn pro-GM food lobby has eyes on Australia

Media Release, October 16th, World Food Day

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says that 854 million people do not have sufficient food for an active and healthy life. This year''s theme for the UN ''World Food Day'' is The Right to Food.
The right to food is the inherent human right of every woman, man, girl and boy, wherever they live on this planet. The theme demonstrates increasing recognition by the international community of the important role of human rights in eradicating hunger and poverty, and hastening and deepening the sustainable development process. www.fao.org/wfd2007

The Columban Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice (PEJ) supports the UN focus on the right to food, not just the right to food sufficiency, but the right to food sovereignty.

We believe that Genetically Modified food is a threat to food sovereignty.

The biotech industry which promotes GM food as a solution to global hunger is trying to get GM food crops into Australia. States are currently reviewing the moratoria which were placed in 2003/04 on the growing of GM crops. There is strong pressure on State Governments to lift the moratoria.

The Columban Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice''s (PEJ''s) primary concern is that the sheer strength of the pro-GM crop lobby in Australia will eventuate in States lifting their moratoria, giving the green light for GM food production which, once implemented, is irreversible. Where is the respect for life and God''s creation when the simple human right to decide on what you consume can be imposed unawares?

These are some of the problems as seen by PEJ:

· The reasons for the moratoria have not changed since 2003, in fact evidence from overseas and events in Australia have highlighted the importance for continuing the prohibitions.

· Adequate independent testing has not occurred. Instead there has been a big PR campaign to convince some farmers that their income will improve by using GM crops (i.e. Canola).

· GM food crops affect biodiversity and alter the food chain.

· GM crops contaminate non-GM crops which is unfair to farmers, denying them choice and affecting their markets.

· The use of processes in producing a GM product involves viruses, antibiotics and nuclear transfer. It is possible that these will break down natural barriers and facilitate virus infections. Some scientists have called these biological time bombs.

· The long term health risks are untested and the fact that research bodies such as the CSIRO have to use private funding further compromises independent testing.

· Current patenting laws mean the GM seeds would be the property of the biotech conglomerates. Farmers are denied the saving of seeds, overall costs increase. Markets are lost.

· Objective information about GM food technology is not being disseminated to the general public. People have the right to know about something so important.

· Inadequate labelling laws already disguise the use of GM ingredients in Australian foods imported from overseas e.g. canola oil and soy.

· The benefits promoted to farmers by GM companies’ ‘spin’ experts are inaccurate. Conventional breeding of new varieties to deal with the old problems of drought, weeds, and pests is sustainable and more effective.

· The interests of a few with much power who are seeking greater profits are being put ahead of the common good of all Australians and our environment.

The Columban Centre for Peace Ecology and Justice therefore on World Food Day 2007 calls on the Australian State Governments to continue the GM Food Moratoria till 2015.

For Further Inquiries Please Call:
Fr Charles Rue 0408 279 871
Anne Lanyon 02 9352 8021

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