In July 2004 the Legislative Assembly passed legislation giving the Health Minister powers to place a moratorium order on genetically-modified commercial crops. Shortly afterwards two such orders were made, banning crops of canola resistant to glufosinate salt herbicides and Roundup Ready canola, which is resistant to gluphosate. The moratorium does not affect any research conducted in the Territory.
These moratorium orders will expire in a month’s time and the Greens want them extended.
In an address to biotechnology industry body AusBiotech‘s annual dinner in March, Chief Minister Jon Stanhope appeared to indicate he would not extend the legislation, regardless of the fact all other states have extended their moratoriums until 2008. (The Canberra Times reported his speech, and the fact it was supported by then Liberal leader Brendan Smyth)
Vicki Dunne told me that in her opinon the ban should never have been put in place in its current form. At the time the legislation was passed, she was the Liberal spokeswoman on agricultural issues and so had to study up on the matter. She said she thinks there is a lot of confusion, fear and pseudo-science surroundign the issue of genetic modification and this is just one area in which it shows. She also said she does not think ending the ban would have an adverse effect on the Canberra region. â€œI donâ€™t think weâ€™d see a huge influx of genetically modified crops in the ACT simply because of the whole nature of the rural industry,” she said.
Greens MLA Deb Foskey conceeded that ending the ban would not see GM crops spring up overnight, but said she thought it would be set a political precedent. â€œEven though the ACT is not a big grower of commercial GM crops, if it steps out of line it just makes it easier for the other premiers to do that.â€ She also said that if GM crops were grown in the ACT, they would jeopardise the integrity of nearby NSW farmers’ crops because it is nearly impossible to stop the spread of seed via wind and birds and so on.
Dr Foskey also touched on some of the moral and ethical problems with genetic modifications. “Often we find that itâ€™s the very large seed producing, pesticide and fertiliser producing companies that are the biggest advocates for genetic modification,” she said. “That means that genetic modification is being steered a certain way. Itâ€™s not about whatâ€™s good for people; itâ€™s about what, for instance, will sell other of their products.”