Australia's PM out of touch with Australian consumers and farmers (25/10/2007)

1.Australia: PM out of touch with consumers and farmers
2.New Zealand: Strong Public Support for Zero Tolerance to GM Contamination


1.PM out of touch with Australian consumers and farmers
Media release from WA Minister for Agriculture, 24 October 2007

Western Australian Agriculture and Food Minister Kim Chance has accused the Prime Minister of being out of touch with Australian consumers and farmers with his recent comments on Genetically Modified (GM) food crops.

Mr Chance said Australian farmers currently produced healthy food of the highest quality for local consumption and export to a range of overseas markets.

'We are heavily reliant on our export markets and yet the Prime Minister wants us to switch to GM foods that are rejected by discerning consumers worldwide,' he said.

'This will damage Australia's international reputation as a source of reliable, safe quality food.'

Mr Chance said the annual survey from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne published yesterday revealed only 30 percent of Australians were comfortable with GM plants for food, while only 19 percent reported some level of comfort with GM animals for food.*

Another recent survey from Rural Press found that only 27.6 percent of farmers wanted to see GM grain crops introduced into Australia.**

'These survey results are consistent with my own observations that an overwhelming majority of consumers and farmers in and around WA favour either the retention or the extension of the moratorium,' Mr Chance said.

'Unless consumers tell us otherwise, the WA Government will not be changing its policy on GM food.'

On Monday, Mr Chance met with a Japanese delegation that presented him with a petition signed by more than 150 companies, representing almost three million Japanese consumers, urging the State Government to continue its moratorium on the commercial production of GM crops.

The delegation brought with them statistics from a survey showing that more than 80 percent of Japanese consumers are anxious about GM foods.

'So, just as our farmers are starting to make some serious headway in the international marketplace, the Prime Minister wants to throw this all away with a misguided and damaging GM policy.

'Australia's agriculture is principally export-oriented and in order to maximise returns for growers, Australia needs to be producing clean and green products which are now shown to be highly sought after in the world's most discriminating markets of Europe, Japan and China.

'The WA Government remains committed to the well-being of this State's farmers and has no intention of removing a policy which is providing economic benefits to farmers and the wider international and local communities, who clearly remain concerned about consuming GM foods.'

Media contact: Alicia Miriklis 9213 6700, 0428 911 240.

*SOURCE: Swinburne National Technology and Society Monitor 2007.
**SOURCE: Rural Press National News Service, Parliament House, Canberra.


2.Strong Public Support for Zero Tolerance to GM Contamination
Media Statement, August 17 2005

79% of New Zealanders would support the current policy of zero tolerance to GM contamination of seed imports. Polling conducted for the Sustainability Council by DigiPoll also found 77% support for zero tolerance to GM contamination of crops in the field, once informed that this too is the current policy.

Public opinion is thus squarely in line with the needs of New Zealand exporters whose markets demand food free of GM content - however that contamination may arise. Though the current incident involved contamination of soy that was not grown in New Zealand, two points stand out from this experience.

The first is that this is a type of 'supply chain' incident that is well documented overseas. While there are ways of minimising the chances of GM contamination occurring during transport and storage, the risk of such incidents was a key reason the Australian Wheat Board successfully opposed commercial production there of an entirely separate crop - GM canola.

This current incident shows how any decision to permit GM food production in New Zealand would open up new sources of risks extending far beyond the company growing a GMO. It would raise costs and marketing risks for a much wider set of food producers.

The second point is that New Zealand still has quite inadequate systems for border detection of GM contamination and the source of this incident could have been very different. MAF is admirably thorough in chasing down contamination once it is shown to be present. However, there has been very limited reform of border detection systems since the breach last year and the review this triggered.

MAF's current test for imported seed uses such a small sample size that around 5% of the time, the single test required will not show up GMOs at concentrations of 0.1% or less. New Zealand food producers that are serious about detecting GM content use between two and fifteen times the sample size MAF requires. Trebling the number of seeds used would reduce from 5% to 1% the chances of the border test missing GM contamination at a level of 0.1%.

Other low cost priorities for reform include:

- Designing model quality assurance procedures;- that importers can use to track all stages of seed breeding and transport.

- Improving incentives - by ensuring the costs arising from contaminated seeds rest with the importing party in the first instance.

MAF can best protect vulnerable food producers and align with public opinion by making far better use of low cost border protection options.

DigiPoll Survey Questions

Question 1: 'New Zealand currently does not allow any GM contamination to be present in imported seeds. Should New Zealand continue this zero tolerance policy?'

Response: Yes: 78.8%; No: 15.3%; Don’t know: 5.9%.

Question 2: 'New Zealand currently does not allow any GM contamination to be present in crops grown in the field. Should New Zealand also continue this zero tolerance policy?'

Response: Yes: 77.2%; No: 16.1%; Don't know: 6.7%.

Both polls were conducted in early August 2005, have a sample size of 500 and a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive