Anti-GM protestors gather at Parliament

02 Jul, 2011 03:00 AM
Protesters gathered outside Parliament House last week.
Protesters gathered outside Parliament House last week.

ABOUT 60 people attended an anti-genetically modified (GM) protest on the steps of Parliament House last week.

Protestors came from throughout the State, before a 5000-signature petition was tabled in the Legislative Council by Greens GM spokesperson Lynn MacLaren and Labor MP Sally Talbot.

The petition called for an inquiry into the government decision to lift the GM canola ban and the process behind the recent sale to Monsanto of a 19.9 per cent stake in the government-owned crop breeding company Intergrain.

Organised by local GM-free advocacy group Just food, its spokesperson Janet Grogan said opposition came from rural communities, farmers, beekeepers and shire councils.

"We want to know why GM canola was allowed to grow commercially in WA against massive opposition," Ms Grogan said.

Ms Maclaren said the GM market had failed to demonstrate it was operating safely and ethically and there had yet to be informed debate on the topic.

"Our industry and regulators have framed the issue as one for experts and unless you have a PhD in genetic engineering, you are not entitled to have a view on the subject," Ms Maclaren said.

She said there was no accurate information available about the location of GM canola and the register promised by Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman had not eventuated.

Ms MacLaren said WA's beekeeping industry was at risk as contracts with the major supermarkets demanded GM-free honey but it had no way of knowing where GM crops were.

"When they wrote to the Agriculture Minister to voice their concerns, they were told our regulators deem GM honey safe and that it does not have to be labelled," Ms MacLaren said.

"How does this help if they can't sell their product because consumers simply don't want it?

"The European market would not accept GM and Canada has completely lost its export market to Europe because of GM."

Ms MacLaren said there was a huge amount of disinformation put out by the GM crop industry to try to convince the Australian public that GM crops were inevitable and essential to cope with the climate change and a growing world population.

Not only had GM crops failed to increase yields, they were also likely to aggravate the hunger problem and indebtedness of farmers because of the required high investments in expensive seeds and pesticides.

"Most importantly, the introduction of GM seeds will mean that farmers can no longer save their own seed to replant in subsequent years as they have been doing for many generations," Ms MacLaren said.

She said it was myth that Australia was being left behind our competitors.

"Despite all the hype, the majority of the world is still GM free, 90pc of GM crops are confined to just five countries," Ms MacLaren said.

"While GM canola has already been introduced in WA it is not too late to protect our markets, health and environment and to reinstate the GM ban.

"At the very least we should have mechanisms in place to hold GM crop companies strictly liable for any damage caused by their products."

Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray said labelling was also a concern.

"Why not label foods GM or non-GM so I can make the choice at the supermarket if it keeps going that way?" Mr Murray said.

"The bill was rushed and the safeguards we asked for in the House weren't put in and now we've got a problem with contamination."

Mr Murray said Premier Colin Barnett had seen the writing on the wall after he returned from a March visit to grain buyers in Japan and overruled his Agriculture Minister by saying there would be no more GM crops besides canola and cotton in WA while he was Premier.

He said a recent meeting in Peppermint Grove attended by the Minister showed it was not just farmers who were concerned about the issue.

"He has allowed a government entity, Intergrain, to be infiltrated by the private sector, Monsanto at a very cheap price," Mr Murray said.

"They bought in to what should be an independent body and now it's contaminated with a company whose only view is how they can improve sales."

Mr Murray said farmers could get up to $50 a tonne less for GM contaminated product.

"At the start, there was this new beaut seed that was going to deliver millions and it's gone the other way," Mr Murray said.

"They should be coming back and having a good hard look at it with recommendations to change the Act to reflect concerns."

Shadow Environment Minister Sally Talbot said the Premier had delivered uncertainty and divisiveness between farmers and a serious infringement of the basic right to lean, green farming practices.

Dr Talbot said the monoculture promoted by GM could lead to pesticide-resistant superweeds like in America.

Concerned protestors came from as far as Mukinbudin, Denmark and Margaret River.

Newdegate farmer Julie Newman said it was disappointing they had to keep coming to Parliament House to try and get their voice heard.

"We had already explained the problem but now we are saying "I told you so'," Ms Newman said.

Organic farmer Steve Marsh, whose farm is at the centre of the controversy, did not attend.

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4/07/2011 1:56:26 PM, on Farm Weekly

As an analogy to corporate-owned Ag, consider the tobacco industry. Smoking is a leading cause of morbidity & mortality worldwide, yet continues to be promoted by large multinational corps & governments. Japan Tobacco is the 3rd largest tobacco company in the world and is largely owned & controlled by the Japanese govt. China is the world’s largest tobacco consumer and the China National Tobacco Company is a govt monopoly. The partnership of public-plant breeding company InterGrain with the GM patent-owner means the WA govt loses its objectivity & ability to govern in the public interest.


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