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Squabbles over end of GM moratorium

By Kerces - 16 May 2006 32

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. “I don’t think we’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. “Even 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.” 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 it’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. It’s not about what’s good for people; it’s about what, for instance, will sell other of their products.”

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32 Responses to
Squabbles over end of GM moratorium
Slinky the Shocker 10:43 am 17 May 06

Ari: Yes. That’s true. However adequate labeling should be a must. Someone with a fish allergy shouldn’t be eating fishy wheat… And if you follow through with that down to restaurants, you see that it might be impossible to do.

PS. Say no to genetic experiments in humans!!!

Ari 10:35 am 17 May 06

Ari: Your statement is entirely true. However bits and bytes can be good (The Slayer CD that I’m listening to at the moment – or RiotACT) or bad (the computer virus you catch when you surf for porn in the internet).

That’s my point. The “Frankenstein” term is meaningless. It doesn’t matter where the genes come from, just how they are used.

Berlina: The ACT Government should provide free egg-goats for all. After all, we live in a nanny state.

Slinky the Shocker 10:32 am 17 May 06
Slinky the Shocker 10:31 am 17 May 06

Berlina: It works if you do a crop rotation with the Singing Trout(tm) that produce Aspirin.

VYBerlinaV8 10:28 am 17 May 06

I’d like to grow some more of those goats that lay eggs. Apparently you have to plant them in early Autumn, though, or they won’t flower.

Slinky the Shocker 10:26 am 17 May 06

Big Al: I presume as a non-idiot you hold a relevant degree in Biology, Chemistry, Agronomy or NRM? If not – shut up, if yes – who gave it to you???

Ari: Your statement is entirely true. However bits and bytes can be good (The Slayer CD that I’m listening to at the moment – or RiotACT) or bad (the computer virus you catch when you surf for porn in the internet). In the same vein both the Gene therapy injection that cures a cancer is as much DNA as an asian bird flu virus.

There’s two issues with GM crops.
First, if they had the same stringent clinical trials for GM crops than they had for pharmaceuticals, they would possibly become uneconomical. Dear Big Al, I would really like to feed you the GM modified peas that caused lung damage in mice. This was not a Deb Foskey conspiracy, but a CSIRO study
The CSIRO dudes reckon ” “If it had been a private company doing this, it might never have seen the light of day.”

Second, I (for once) agree with johnboy. The way GM cropping works, is that you can bring out a ton of RoundUp(tm), which basically sterilizes your field from all other plants, apart from the crop. Couple of issues here:
-Runoff can be humongous and have significant effects on primary production in rivers, with a decline in fish populations
-Often, wiping all weeds can promote pest damage in the crop. Instead of on the weed, the li’l fuckers start to niblle on the crop.
-It also prevents modern farming techniques like intercopping (different crops at the same time) and multi-cropping (multiple crops in one season), which boost yield AND conserve soil for the long-term. Important in Australia’s nutrient poor soils.


Erg0 10:06 am 17 May 06

Rambo was never six foot… five nine, tops

wonsworld 9:51 am 17 May 06

I thought I saw one of them gherkins once. But it was just a Rambo movie.

I tend to agree with Dr Foskey on this issue. The development scientists and genetic engineers who run the facilities that do the development work have the ideals of feeding the world, healthier and more disease resistant plants and so on. I’m not worried about them and applaud their efforts.

It’s the guys who pay the bills that concern me. The ones who are interested in money and making money and with a “devil may care” attitude about what is released into the world as long as the bottom line keeps growing. Standards slip, ideals collapse and corners are cut and risks are taken and it’s usually then, when accidents happen.

Ari 9:30 am 17 May 06

What do you have to do to make a gherkin angry?

Thumper 9:22 am 17 May 06

Just wait until you get attacked by an angry six foot gerkin with an M16.

Then don’t come running to me….

Ari 9:16 am 17 May 06

Genes are simply packets of information, like bits and bytes.

They are not imbued with any innate ethical and moral dimension.

Chris S 8:55 am 17 May 06

Ralph, presumably you are saying they are genetically modified due to breeding programs to select the best genetic characteristics. That’s true, but at least they have reached that stage by selecting only that plant’s own DNA. What the GM people are doing is introducing DNA from other organisms, including fish and animals, which is a quite different kettle of, well, Frankenstein.

The other reality that this debate seems to forget about goes beyond the science, but concerns the market. The Europeans and many Asians, particularly the Japanese, have voted with their wallets against GM food. If Australia wishes to retain its markets, and move into those where the Yanks have fouled their own nests, we need to maintain our clean, green, safe non-GMO marketing advantage.

Ralph 8:18 am 17 May 06

Most of the fresh produce we buy is actually already genetically modified food. Think about it.

Big Al 7:07 am 17 May 06

The world breaks down into two basic types of people – the first group believe that genetically modified foods are the fundamental root of all that is evil in western society – that they will destroy nature, poison the water table, lead to mutations in our children and oppress the hungry and the poor. The other group are, on the other hand, not idiots.

johnboy 11:33 pm 16 May 06

It seems to me both sides are missing the point.

pesticide resistant crops encourage more poison being spread over the land and should be discouraged regardless of their provenance.

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