Acceptance of GM food in Australia? (24/9/2007)

NOTE: In the Guardian article that Fran Murrell refers to in her comments below, we're told that Julian Little, chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) - a PR front for the big GM firms, 'pointed to Australia as a place where public opinion on GM technology was turned around. "There's a country that has gone through the moratoriums, has gone through the we're-not-sure, the NGOs have been in there and caused mayhem, and come out the other end saying this is a useful technology and the public support it." (Return of GM, The Guardian, 16 September 2007))

For more on the ABC

Dear GM Watch,

I would like to comment on the statement in the following article that public opposition to GM crops has turned around.

Public opinion in Australia has certainly not changed to support of GM crops and food as stated in this article. What is happening is that 4 states are reviewing their ban on growing GM canola. This is supported by many in farming organisations and several members of government. Whether either are following the wishes of their constituents is open to intense doubt.

Many farmers do not belong to the farming organisations. Many who are members do not agree with the decisions made within these organisations. Similarly politicians have not consulted their constituents. In no arena are there rigourous evidence based discussions. Most Australians have no idea that the ban on growing GM canola is about to expire or how this will mean the inevitable contamination of the food chain and the environment.

A recent survey purported to show the majority of people interviewed were supportive of GM food. However it is instructive to read the questions asked and then ponder if this is an example of push polling

In the recent Biotechnology Australia survey participants were asked the following questions:

Q4. Now I'm going to ask you about different objectives of genetically modifying plants to produce food. I'd like you to tell me how valuable you feel these objectives are to individuals or society. Please tell me whether you think these objectives are very valuable, somewhat valuable, not very valuable or not at all valuable. So what about genetically modifying plants…

(i) to make the food healthier

(ii) to make the food last longer

(iii) to make the plants herbicide tolerant

(iv) to make the plants pest resistant

(v) to make the plants frost resistant

(vi) to make the plants mature more quickly

(vii) to make plants drought resistant

(viii) to make the food cheaper

(With the exception of herbicide tolerance and limited success with pest resistance - none of these crops are a commercial reality)

Q6. Thinking about the environmental problems that society currently faces, would you be in favour of…

1) Using only natural or traditional methods of agriculture and environmental management OR

2) Pursuing only technologies made available through advances in gene technology OR

3) Pursuing all avenues available

The full list of questions is at the back of the report on the Biotechnology Australia website.

Notably absent was the question that has been there in previous years:

"How likely would you be to eat GM food" with a choice of very unlikely, unlikely etc...

The drought in Australia is ferocious and many farmers are staring at ruin, unable to feed their animals from pasture, unable to buy in feed, watching crops dying that they have borrowed heavily to sow. Promises of currently non-existant drought resistant GM crops by the proponents of GM, while non-GM versions of these crops already exist, could be seen as deceptive and manipulative.



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