GM a millstone, MP warns (4/12/2007)

1.Labor MP slams Premier
2.GM a millstone Draper warns
3.GM sparks council protest
4.Eat better and eat less, but not GM

EXTRACT: 'The question has to be asked... when there is such tremendous opposition across the community to this decision, who are the beneficiaries. As far as I can tell, it's the biotechnology companies. The ordinary Victorian - both farmer and consumer alike - will lose from this decision.'


1.Labor MP slams Premier
By Tania Martin
Belgrave Mail, 4th December 2007

GEMBROOK MP Tammy Lobato has accused Premier John Brumby of putting the interests of multinational companies ahead of Victorians.

Ms Lobato said the decision to lift the ban on growing genetically modified (GM) canola reflected her own Government’s inability and unwillingness to listen to consumers, farmers, food producers and manufactures.

'The question has to be asked that when there is such tremendous opposition across the community to this decision, who are the beneficiaries,' Ms Lobato said.

'As far as I can tell, it's the biotechnology companies. The ordinary Victorian - both farmer and consumer alike - will lose from this decision.'

Ms Lobato has also voiced her suspicions over the timing of the decision, which came three days after the Federal election.

'I’m sure this decision was timed with the anticipation that the public would be sick of politics and not take notice,' she said. 'If so, it’s been an incredible misjudgment of the degree of public sentiment on this issues.'

And she has been backed by Shire of Yarra Ranges councillor Samantha Dunn.

Cr Dunn said lifting the moratorium would open the floodgates for other GM crops to be grown in the state, destroying Victoria’s clean and green image.

'This is the most retrograde decision I’ve seen from the Brumby Government to date,' she said.

'The assertion from the Premier that the lifting of the moratorium is of economic benefit to Victoria is misguided.'

'The majority of farmers, consumers and the food industry do not support GM crops being grown in Australia, yet the Premier has chosen to disregard this.'

Mr Brumby last week announced that the four-year moratorium on GM canola would be allowed to lapse in February next year.

He said the State Government had accepted the Federal Government’s approvals and findings of a report led by Sir Gustav Nossal, which gives GM canola the tick of approval.

'This decision will not only put Victorian farmers on a level playing field with overseas farmers, it would also deliver significant environmental benefits,' he said.

'Victorian farmers will now have the choice to grow the type of canola they want, enabling them to compete equally with overseas farmers for the first time.'

Monbulk MP James Merlino has said he approves of the Government’s decision to lift the moratorium.

A spokesman for Agriculture Minister Joe Helper said the decision had been supported by the majority of farming bodies, including the Australian Farmers Federation, and the Australian Grains Council.

He said that the decision had been made to give farmers a choice to plant higher-yielding crops that require less dangerous pesticides and are better for the environment.

'The report by Nobel Prize Winner Sir Gustav Nossal found that the grain industry would be able to ensure that GM canola was kept separate from non GM canola in the supply chain,' the spokesman said.

Cr Dunn last week called for the Federal Government to convene a meeting of the Gene Technology Ministerial Council to consider the matter nationally.

She has also criticised the lack of transparency behind the government's decision.

'The submissions to Sir Gustav Nossal's review are not publicly available. This is poor process and fails the test of open and transparent government,' Cr Dunn said.

But the spokesman for Mr Helper said that people with strong views on the issue were able to make submissions to the review of the moratorium and there has been much public discussion of the GM issue over the past four years since the moratorium was introduced.

'Minister Helper only received Sir Gustav's report three weeks ago and both he and cabinet had to consider it before making a decision,' he said.


2.GM a millstone Draper warns
Northern Daily Leader, 4 December 2007 [shortened]

A DECISION to lift the ban on genetically modified (GM) crops of the oilseed, canola, could have the same environmental ramifications as the release of the cane toad in Australian sugar cane fields.

This was the opinion of the Member for Tamworth Peter Draper who has attacked the announcement by the NSW and Victorian governments to lift the ban and believes they have underestimated the level of public concern.

Addressing Parliament last week, Mr Draper called for an extension of the five-year ban to allow further research on the issue.

Mr Draper said in a media release that GM contamination could well turn out to be like nuclear waste, 'a millstone we leave for future generations to pay the price'.

'The Government should extend the GM crop moratorium for another five years to properly canvas public opinion and ensure that this technology does not contaminate our environment and economy into eternity,' Mr Draper said.

'I am not saying this technology may not one day be deemed totally safe, but until there is scientific proof of its safety, and the repercussions for our exports and the environment are clearly understood, common sense says we must act with caution and maintain the ban.'


3.GM sparks council protest
By Kerri-Anne Mesner
Sydenham Star, 4th December 2007 [shortened]

DECISIONS by the Victorian and New South Wales governments to lift bans on genetically modified (GM) crops have sparked concerns with Brimbank councillors.

The Brimbank council is calling on the governments to reverse their decisions to allow farmers to plant GM canola crops next year and will ask the newly elected Rudd Government for a national moratorium on GM crops.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Cr Miles Dymott said he was astounded and disgusted to hear of the state governments’ decisions that day.

'Up until today, there has been a moratorium in every state and territory,' he said.

'Lifting the moratorium is a huge mistake.

'There’s no going back once Australia does that.'

Cr Dymott said the health and environmental effects of GM food had not been fully investigated.

He said governments at all levels needed to ensure that residents of Brimbank and Australia generally were eating healthy food in the future.

Cr Dymott said the international markets would not be keen to buy Australian feed if it was genetically modified.

Cr Kathryn Eriksson said there was also an issue with people already eating GM food and not knowing it as manufacturers were not required to alert consumers that GM products were in food items.

She said the council was trying to encourage healthy eating, but with uncertainty within the scientific world of health risk factors from GM products, it needed to ensure that no such products were sold in the municipality.

While the majority of councillors supported Cr Dymott's motion to send letters to the state governments urgently requesting them to reverse their decision on the moratoriums, some councillors wanted to wait.


4.Eat better and eat less, but not GM
The Age (Letters), Dec 4 2007

I FEEL uneasy about David Tribe's contention that we should embrace GM foods as a way to deal with health problems caused by affluence (Letters, 1/12).

If we are getting fatter and more diabetes-prone, we should consume less, not alter the foods so that we can continue eating more than necessary.

Let's not forget that the planet faces a resources problem, not just a series of health problems.

When Cubans faced a fuel crisis, they had to get on their bikes, or walk, and eat more locally grown foods. They apparently got healthier and a little thinner overall.

My local greengrocer sells bags of organic apples. They are delicious, but about half the size of conventional apples. This provides fibre and vitamins with half as many calories. To me, this is the sensible way to control diseases of over-consumption.

Eight years ago we were told that 'golden rice' would end vitamin A deficiency in Third World children. It has not yet happened and the sceptics have pointed out that the problem is really a diet that is not adequate.

Global co-operation to make sure all of the world's peoples get adequate nutrition would be a far grander vision than simply tinkering with genes in foods to benefit the few.

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