GM survey

22 Jan, 2004 07:00 PM
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AUSTRALIAN farmers are more accepting of GM crops than they were 12 months ago, a recent farm industry poll has shown.

According to a Kondinin Group survey, of the 720 national respondents surveyed, 31.5pc were in favour of the introduction of GM crops, up from 19pc in 2002.

The level of respondents opposed to GM crops was 34pc, down from 45pc last year.

The proportion of respondents unsure about the introduction of GM technology remains similar at 33.5pc.

Farmers in WA and Victoria showed the greatest swing in favour of the technology - a 16pc increase in Victoria and 15pc rise in WA.

The survey found that opposition to the technology was greatest in SA and NSW.

According to the Kondinin Group, the reasons why respondents were unsure or opposed to GM technology were similar to those given 12 months ago, including potential loss of markets, consumer perceptions, health benefits and what the technology may mean for the future farming, in terms of dealing with multinationals.

But the Network of Concerned Farmers has been quick to claim that the survey figures suggesting a swing in favour of GM crops were misleading.

NCF spokesperson and WA farmer Julie Newman said more detail was needed to truly evaluate the opinions of farmers.

"Those counted as supporting GM crops may only support trials, GM cotton or may only give conditional support for GM crops if they are totally contained and will not impact on markets, but these conditions have not been met," Mrs Newman said.

She questioned the reason why some farmers supported GM crops.

"Farmers have been misled to believe GM crops will increase yields and will reduce costs when the reality has proven the opposite," she said.

"The evidence to date has revealed GM canola yields are well below the national average canola yields and costs will increase significantly to all farmers due to the need for segregation."

NCF said the survey proves that more unbiased factual information needs to be distributed to farmers.

"We support well-contained trials as we are confident they will prove GM crops do not perform as well as claimed, but our votes should not be counted as support for GM crops," Mrs Newman said.

Meanwhile, Greens South West MLC Christine Sharp has called on Agriculture Minister Kim Chance to use his general order powers under the Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Act, and endorse the unanimous Standing Committee findings to declare the whole state GM-free.

Dr Sharp said it was important for Mr Chance to move to close the gate on all GM crops, not just canola, to allow all WA producers to enjoy the market advantages associated with GM-free status.

"The standing committee found there had been an early bird advantage for Canada as one of the initial marketers of GM canola," she said.

"That early bird advantage has since passed and in fact the balance of evidence suggested a significant advantage in many markets - such as Japan and Europe - for all WA produce to be marketed as GM-free."

Dr Sharp said at present GM technology was unregulated in WA.

"The Minister must now close the gates to all GM crops until the marketing risks of accepting any GM crops on our clean and green image are resolved by conducting the Standing Committee's recommended market ananlysis," she said.

The state government is currently calling for public comment on the commercial release of herbicide resistant GM canola crops in WA.

Submissions regarding the adverse impacts on non-GM produce and the capacity for industry self-regulation are invited by February 16.

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