Experts send letter to PM over GM canola (15/3/2008)

1.Experts send letter to PM over GM canola fears
2.Petition aims to override GM legislation
3.NSW Govt urged to reveal GM canola farms
4.Rudd faces joint anti-GM campaign


1.Experts send letter to PM over GM canola fears
By Simon Lauder ABC News,

[Audio: Experts write to Rudd over GM fears
http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/news/audio/am/200803/20080315am03-GM-letter.mp3 ]

It is now legal to plant genetically modified (GM) canola in much of Australia, but a large group of concerned scientists, nutritionists and doctors is trying to convince the Federal Government to stop the seeds from ever being sown.

About 700 people have signed a letter to the Prime Minister, reminding him of Labor's election statement that safe and beneficial standards for GM products must be established beyond reasonable doubt.

They want the Federal Government to override decisions in Victoria and New South Wales allowing GM canola to be grown, and start from scratch, with a complete review of GM safety.

The planting season is only weeks away, but Adelaide businessman Peter Fenwick is hoping his letter to the Federal Government can stop it.

Mr Fenwick's letter has been endorsed by 700 individuals as well as the Public Health Association.

The letter says the previous federal government set up a biased regulatory regime for GM products.

Epidemiologist and biochemist Judy Carman says there was no thorough testing of the safety of GM canola before it was approved.

'There's going to be a lot of GM canola about to be planted in the eastern states,' she said.

'When it's planted and harvested and comes onto Australian tables for Australians to eat in the form of margarine, canola oil, vegetable oil, a lot of baked products and fried products et cetera, it will not have to be labelled.'

Dr Carman says no one can say for sure if genetically modified DNA is safe if ingested by humans.

'We don't know, because the safety assessments have not been done properly,' she said.

'There have not been any human health studies done on GM crops.

'There have been very few, ultimately, animal studies done on GM crops, and this is one of the problems - our food regulator does not require any animal studies to be done on GM crops.'

Mr Fenwick wants a complete ban on GM products and a review of the approval process.

'We believe that as a result of a thorough investigation by a committed government, that the current body of evidence will show that GM foods are not safe beyond reasonable doubt,' he said.

'In that case we would ask the Government to order an immediate product safety recall on all GM crops, GM foods and GM animal feed and ban their importation into Australia.'

A spokesman for the Minister responsible for food safety, Senator Jan McLucas, says the Government is considering the issues raised in the letter.


2.Petition aims to override GM legislation
The Age, March 15 2008

Australia's public health body has backed a petition calling on the federal government to put an urgent stop to the farming of genetically modified crops.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian MacDonald has granted approval for genetically modified (GM) canola crops to be commercially grown in the state.

The Victorian government also has decided not to extend a moratorium on growing GM canola that expired last month.

The Public Health Association of Australia has joined a 700-strong petition calling on the federal government to override state legislation.

The petition calls for a review of the safety of GM food and emphasises Labor's election promise to only approve GM crops if safety is assured.

Adelaide businessman Peter Fenwik, who organised the petition and accompanying letter, is hoping it will lead to action before GM crops are sowed.

'The letter offers to facilitate a meeting with 20 distinguished international experts, mostly scientists, who can comprehensively advise ministers on the risks of genetic engineering, GM crops and GM foods,' Mr Fenwick said in a statement.

Mr Fenwick said the safety of GM crops and food had not been established beyond reasonable doubt and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should take note.

'There is significant scientific evidence for health risks from GM foods and the matter requires Mr Rudd's urgent attention if he is to fulfil his undertaking to the Australian people,' Mr Fenwick said.

The letter says the previous Howard government had set up a bias regulatory regime for GM products.

'The Labor government has inherited this system and must put a stop to it immediately,' Mr Fenwick said.


3.NSW Govt urged to reveal GM canola farms
ABC News, Mar 15 2008

The New South Wales Opposition says farmers need to be told where the state's first genetically modified (GM) crops will be planted.

The move became legal in New South Wales yesterday.

Nationals MP Rick Colless says it is now up to the Government to inform people where the first GM crops will be grown.

'If there are neighbouring farmers they need to know if they are going to have GM crops next door to them,' he said.

'I think Mr Macdonald made those locations public so that we can make sure that all farmers, both GM and non-GM growers, can take the right precautions to make sure there's no mixing of this material.'

Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald says he does not know where the first crops will be planted, because it is not something he is required to give approval for.

Asked whether anything had come across his desk that would suggest where the crops would be grown, he replied: 'No, and I wouldn't be involved in that.'

A spokeswoman for the Federal Office of Gene Technology says it is up to the industry to regulate GM crops and she says they do not have to give advance notice about where they will be planted.


4.Rudd faces joint anti-GM campaign
Katharine Murphy
The Age, March 15 2008

THE Federal Government faces a concerted campaign from a new coalition of health, environment and farm groups to ban genetically modified crops and foods until they are proved safe beyond reasonable doubt.

More than 700 groups and individuals have signed a letter urging Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and senior ministers to meet a group of 20 experts to examine the health risks associated with GM foods.

The fresh attempt to exert political pressure at the national level follows a controversial decision by Victoria and NSW to join Queensland in ending their bans on GM crops.

Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has also decided to endorse more research on GM as part of a strategy to help farmers deal with the challenges of climate change.

Before the election, Labor's previous agriculture spokesman, Senator Kerry O'Brien, had been lukewarm towards the industry.

The new federal campaign is being led by wealthy Adelaide businessman Peter Fenwick, who has urged Labor to maintain its pre-election stance on genetic engineering.

Yesterday, Mr Fenwick said he believed Mr Burke was 'relatively uninformed' about the risks associated with GM, and had been 'captured by his department'.

Mr Rudd has been urged to:

*Stop the release of any GM crops until he has met scientific experts to hear the latest evidence.

*Order an immediate product safety recall on all GM crops, GM foods and GM animal feed, and ban their importation into Australia.

*Overhaul the regulatory bodies with responsibility for policing the industry, and override the states that have lifted their GM bans.

Groups involved in the campaign include the Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Milk Producers of Australia, Biological Farmers of Australia, a think tank associated with the Catholic Church, plus a host of organic and biodynamic food companies including Pureharvest.

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