Endorsement of GM crops a "bunch of lies" (17/12/2007)

1.Isolating GM canola not possible, growers told
2.Academy endorses GM crops

EXTRACT: Bob Phelps, of Gene Ethics, said the report was biased and a 'bunch of lies'. He said there were no drought-tolerant GM crops, so the technology could not combat climate change, and herbicide-resistant species meant crops were sprayed with more chemicals. (item 2)

NOTE: The Academy's spokesman on the safety of GM crops etc. (item 2) is TJ Higgins, a GM scientist with no expertise on nutritional/toxicological testing of GM crops. Higgins is also a leading light of CSIRO's Plant Industries which has contractual relations with GM companies like Monsanto. His previous promotion of GM crops has been called either disingenuous or dishonest.


1.Isolating GM canola not possible, growers told
Orietta Guerrera
The Age, December 18 2007

IT IS virtually impossible to segregate genetically modified canola crops from traditional varieties, Australian growers have been warned.

Terry Boehm, vice-president of Canada's National Farmers Union, said yesterday he was puzzled by last month's decision by the Victorian and NSW governments to lift their bans on the commercial production of the controversial crops.

'To lose GM-free canola status is to lose a very big advantage,' he said.

Mr Boehm said GM canola varieties had not produced significantly increased yields and cases of contamination had led to lengthy court battles.

The country's canola growers had also lost customers in key export markets: China, Europe and Japan. 'Anyone that thinks they'll be able to maintain for very long GM-free canola is fooling themselves,' Mr Boehm said.

Today, Greenpeace will release a report on Canada's 12 years of experience with GM canola, saying it shows contamination of fields is inevitable and premiers Morris Iemma and John Brumby must rethink their decisions. Farmers in Victoria and NSW are free to plant GM canola from early next year.

A spokeswoman for Victorian Agriculture Minister Joe Helper said the state's review into the economic and trade implications of GM canola considered segregation and the organics sector. It recommended the ban be lifted.

'It identified the capacity of the grain sector to segregate and noted cross-contamination by pollen was extremely low,' the spokeswoman said.


2.Academy endorses GM crops
Jewel Topsfield
The Age, December 18 2007

GENETICALLY modified crops will play a critical role in alleviating malnutrition, combating climate change and removing allergens from food - and the technology must be embraced in Australia, according to Australia's top scientists.

The prestigious Australian Academy of Science has released a statement strongly endorsing the controversial crops and claiming state-based legislation should be consistent with the national system.

'Sometimes the lack of full certainty, in an environment of manageable risk, should not be used as the reason to postpone measures where genetic modification can legitimately be used to address environmental or public health issues,' the statement says.

The endorsement comes a month after Victoria and NSW announced farmers would be free to plant genetically modified canola from early next year, despite appeals from Western Australia and Tasmania not to lift the bans.

The Victorian Government yesterday said it 'welcomed the support of mainstream science in the responsible use of gene technologies'.

But anti-GM activists branded the statement a 'bunch of lies', compiled by scientists who were not independent or objective and merely wanted to be able to continue with their research.

And the Australian Greens called on the Rudd Government to override NSW and Victoria's decision to allow genetically modified canola, saying the crops had not been proven to be safe and could not be controlled.

Australian Academy of Science spokesman T. J. Higgins told The Age the majority of scientists were comfortable with genetically modified plants.

He said Western Australia and Tasmania's opposition to the technology was political rather than scientific.

'From a scientific perspective, we have been eating food from genetically modified products for at least 10 years and there are no known risks associated with that,' Dr Higgins said.

'Foods made from genetically modified products are probably safer than some conventional products because they undergo so much more scrutiny during the testing.'

The academy's statement said gene technology would play a critical part in Australia's response to the challenges it faced over coming decades, including climate change.

But Bob Phelps, of Gene Ethics, said the report was biased and a 'bunch of lies'. He said there were no drought-tolerant GM crops, so the technology could not combat climate change, and herbicide-resistant species meant crops were sprayed with more chemicals.

Premier John Brumby said removing the ban would deliver greater choice to farmers and consumers and generate $115 million in economic activity in Victoria over eight years.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said concerns about genetically modified crops included the potential for increased chemical usage, cross-contamination, environmental weeds, loss of markets and increased immune and allergic reactions.


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