|Head of GM panel in conflict claims (6/12/2007)|
NOTE: Quite apart from his biotech business interests, Nossal was a known GM enthusiast who had dismissed the moratorium as a nonsense. You 'd have to live in cloud-cuckoo land to believe none of this disqualified from making an independent assessment. ---
NOTE: Quite apart from his biotech business interests, Nossal was a known GM enthusiast who had dismissed the moratorium as a nonsense. You 'd have to live in cloud-cuckoo land to believe none of this disqualified from making an independent assessment.
---Head of GM panel in conflict claims
SIR Gustav Nossal, the former Australian of the Year chosen to head the Victorian Government's panel that recommended lifting bans on some genetically modified crops, is the founder of a business designed to reap commercial gain from biotechnology.
The connection creates a potential conflict of interest, say some farming groups and GM food opponents.
But Sir Gustav dismissed suggestions that his business interests meant he was disqualified from making an independent assessment.
'If they want to run this tortuous argument that somewhere, somehow we might get a contract with Monsanto then let them run with it,' said Sir Gustav. 'Our process on the panel was completely open and my position on the benefits of some GM crops - including the big benefits for the Third World - has never been a secret.'
But Sir Gustav's role as a founder and director of Foursight, a consultancy that links bioscience research with commerce, has provided ammunition for his critics in the war of words over GM food.
'It should have been on the public record,' said a spokesman for the Biological Farmers of Australia, Scott Kinnear. 'He's the director of a commercial company which could stand to benefit from the lifting of the ban. He's not independent.'
Sir Gustav, an eminent scientist and Companion of the Order of Australia, is listed as one of four directors of Foursight, along with Dr Graham Mitchell, Professor David Penington, and Dr David Stocker.
The Victorian Government has backed its Chief Scientist, saying it considers his advice on the commercial development of GM canola to be impartial.
'The Victorian Government was aware of Sir Gustav's role in Foursight when it approached him to head the report into the economic issues around lifting the moratorium on GM canola,' said a spokesman for Victoria's Agriculture Minister, Joe Helper. 'Sir Gustav is one of Australia's most respected scientists and we believe that as such he was an appropriate person to conduct this review.'
Mr Kinnear, along with other GM opponents such as Greenpeace, called for the Victorian Government to review the decision and install a new panel to examine the issue. He predicted that public and business opposition to GM foodstuffs would make them unviable over the next five years.
Sir Gustav said he expected opposition to fade 'within the next decade, as people begin to appreciate the benefits'.
The NSW upper house passed the State Government's GM crop bill late on Tuesday night — while the parliamentary press gallery's Christmas party took place.
Two types of herbicide-resistant canola, both approved as safe by the Federal Government's Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, can now be sown in NSW.