AGRICULTURE Minister Kim Chance has admitted the State Government is under more pressure to lift its

30 Mar, 2007 08:45 PM
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Farmers and industry members are becoming increasingly impatient with the moratorium and have urged the government to adopt the technology without delay in the belief it can increase yields and lower basic input costs through decreased chemical use.

But Mr Chance has given no indication the government was about to change its immediate position, with the ban set to remain in place until at least the next election.

He also warned that GMO technology might not provide solutions to the questions that many people were asking.

³Yes, I think it is fair to say the government is under more pressure now to lift the moratorium on GM crops, than it ever has been before,² Mr Chance said.

³But the State Government¹s moratorium on GM Crops runs for the term of Government and will, as with all government policies, be reviewed.

³GM technology is not the silver bullet that many people believe it to be and we have to be careful in understanding that.

³There are still many things to be learned about it.

³For example what is the fate of the farmers who don¹t adopt GMO technology?

³How can we guarantee that we don¹t shift costs onto them?²

Mr Chance said he believed that WAFarmers¹ recent policy shift was indicative of a broader change in industry attitudes but did not consider there was a major ideological coup in the wings.

³Their policy may have mo-ved far on paper, but in reality they have only mo-ved from standing on one side of the line to just on the other side of the line,² he said.

³While it is important to cross the line, they haven¹t actually moved all that far, and they still have concerns amongst their own members.

³They still have issues that they want to see sorted out before they see the technology adopted and those issues really haven¹t changed.²

Mr Chance also told a gathering of canola growers and agronomists at an Oilseeds WA workshop last week that the debate on GMO adoption was like a football match, but did not have a simple means of testing the outcome.

He said there were long periods of frenetic activity between two opposing sides, the odd half time break and spectators egging their respective sides on.

³Unfortunately agricultural policy is not like football and you just can¹t point to the scoreboard to decide who has won,² he said.

³By what standard should government evaluate competing arguments in relation to a new policy?

³I believe we must test policy and for me the simple question is this ‹ is the adoption of specific GMO crops going to be in all growers¹ interests?²

Mr Chance said the issue causing most concern in the debate was the question of what impact GMO technology adoption would have on the production of non-GM grains.

Issues such as segregations at delivery and risk of drift in production have yet to be completely solved to the satisfaction of the State Government¹s GMO Industry Reference Group.

³These issues clearly concern members of WAFarmers as well,² Mr Chance said.

Last week Mr Chance also used a recent French university study to publicly defend the moratorium.

He said the study had revealed the potential harm of GM food and provided further support for WA¹s moratorium on the commercial production of GM crops.

Mr Chance said the independent study conducted by French resear-chers and scientists from the universities of Caen and Rouen, had showed that rats fed on Monsanto¹s MON863 genetically modified corn had significant reductions in growth and adverse effects on liver and kidney function after 90 days of consumption.

³Until we know more about GM crops, especially GM food crops, I believe it is a wise move to continue with the moratorium,² he said.

However, the Frency study has been slammed by PGA Western Graingrowers chairman Leon Brad-ley.

"Mr Chance fails to mention a couple of important facts," Mr Brad-ley said.

These include:

p The Œindependent¹ study was funded by Greenpeace, which has an avowed policy of opposition to almost all biotechnology in agriculture

p The study showed significant variations. For example, while the male subjects showed reductions in growth of 3.3pc, the females showed an increase of 3.7pc

p A diet of pure corn ‹ GM or not ‹ when fed to rats for three months is likely to have toxicological effects.

³This Œscience¹ will join others in a long line of bogus trials funded by the opponents of GM technology,² Mr Bradley said.

Mr Chance also said the State Government would consider approving commercial broad scale GMO trials but as of last Friday had not received any formal applications.

³I have told people that I would be happy to consider a trial if there was an application,² he said.

³I really don¹t know why that is and I could guess perhaps it could be that they are having trouble sourcing seed.²

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