Greens shut out GM

01 Oct, 2012 02:00 AM
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Greens Leader Christine Milne.
Greens Leader Christine Milne.

THE Australian Greens say they won’t give the green light to Genetically Modified crops – or any other version of GM’s – despite widespread support for biotechnology amongst Australian farming groups and the scientific community.

Leading farm groups and plant scientists back GM technology development, with its potential to generate varieties with drought and even frost tolerance, or grow in soils where virtually nothing exists.

Citing feedback from her “listening tour” of regional Australia, launched when she replaced Bob Brown in April, Australian Greens leader Senator Christine Milne said she was “reinforced in the view” about not allowing GM’s in food chains.

“I think when the community comes to realise that there are real health issues associated with GMOs, not to mention organic growers actually being put out of business by the fact that there is contamination of organic certified areas as a result of GM trials, that’s going to make people even more frustrated,” she said.

But Senator Milne declined to say if any of the health concerns with GM’s were actually proven, when pressed by Fairfax Agricultural Media.

“GMO is under the microscope in all sorts of ways and they change on a regular basis in terms of what people are trying to put together in a GMO product,” she said.

“What I can say though is the contamination issues are real.

“I’ve just been in WA where I met with an organic grower who has now had his certification destroyed because of contamination from a GMO crop which has blown onto his properly, that will end up in the courts.

“And what Australian growers need to realise is that the, all the responsibility and all the costs are now on the non-GMO farmers who have to clean up after the contamination from the GMO risks.

“The health issues change regularly as the types of technology that are being experimented with also change and you only have to go and look at the literature to see that there are extensive and expansive claims on all sides.”

But Science & Technology Australia CEO Anna-Maria Arabia said GM’s were one clear example of where a more scientific approach to politics would benefit everyone.

Her group organised the “science meets Canberra week”, where more than 200 of Australia’s top scientists held meetings urging Australia’s leaders to pay as much attention to science when making decisions, as they do to economics and short-term political considerations.

The scientists argued for; a commitment to testing major policies against scientific evidence; support from all political parties to protect the research budget; and greater engagement between scientists and parliament.

Ms Arabia said “Politics and science sometimes seem worlds apart and that is to the detriment of both disciplines and the nation in general”.

“An evidence-based approach to policy development increases impact and ensures cost-effectiveness,” she said.

“Yet there are a number of policy challenges in Australia where the science is either being ignored or the vast divide between policy and science is letting the nation down.

“Politics, economics, and community sentiment do play a role in decision making but this should not be at the exclusion of the scientific evidence base.”

Ms Arabia she said robust scientific results are produced through a rigorous process which scientists adhere to - the “gold standard” is the results published in peer reviewed journals.

She said scientific evidence was being ignored by both sides of politics in a range of issues, not just the Greens on GM’s.

She said Greenpeace’s anti-GM campaign backfired significantly when activists “razored” GM wheat trials at CSIRO in Canberra last year.

“If you don’t like the science you don’t burn the laboratory,” she said.

“You need the research to happen to be able to continue building the science and to keep building the evidence base, using the tried and tested peer reviewed methods.

“Greenpeace lost a lot of credibility last year and membership because of that protest.

“Why – because they burnt the laboratory before the results came out.

“They didn’t actually burn the laboratory but they razored the crops.

“The trials were not about Monsanto pursuing a political agenda or any bias at CSIRO; it was about scientists acting without fear or favour.

“The research was about crops that provide health benefits for bowel cancer.

“But even if they weren’t (about health benefits), it’s about letting the science proceed, to find results that inform the debate with facts, not emotions, and that then informs decision.”

This week Senator Milne also quoted a CSIRO report on the “huge impacts” on Australia's biodiversity and plant and animal species, resulting form accelerating climate change.

“The report makes it clear that as climate change actually starts to bite all around Australia we’re going to see really significant shifts in the landscape, in species going to extinction,” she said.

Speaking to Fairfax Agricultural Media earlier this year, Federal Nationals Leader Warren Truss said for Australian agriculture to play an important role feeding the world’s exploding population base in years ahead, new technologies like GM crops must be embraced.

Mr Truss said Australian farmers and the agricultural industry had been progressive with implementing and adopting new animal breeds and improving genetics right across the scene.

But the same level of progress has not been made with plant technology.

“The proposed or claimed disasters or environmental catastrophes that GM’s were supposedly going to create have not actually occurred,” he said.

“They are not growing 10 foot taller than us or anything like that.

“The reality is we’ve been resisting technology that other countries have embraced for many years and we’re getting left behind.”

Anti-GM groups continued attacks on the technology this week, with an “Occupy Monsanto” protest held in Melbourne.

The protest was timed to coincide with more than 70 other “Target Monsanto” protests worldwide but the local event only attracted a small crowd.

The protest was also expected to include week-long sittings in St Louis Missouri US where the Monsanto Corporation is headquartered.

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READER COMMENTS

Trugger
1/10/2012 3:34:27 AM

Why do I get an image of an ironbark strainer post in my mind every time I see a news article about Christine Milne? Her "listening tour" where totally brainwashed, uneducated twits have determined the Greens policy seems to point to the huge similarities between her and said strainer post. However, if someone nominates a strainer post in the next senate election, I would imagine it would be a more functional member of the senate than Christine.
Top Ender
1/10/2012 6:26:19 AM

I really don't know why people are surprised when the 'Greens" come out with their ludite statements. Here is a group that never uses science when it doesn't agree with their own opinion. Doesn't matter if it is Super Trawlers, GMO Crops, Live Export, the list goes on and on. The only good these people do is to reinforce the need for Agriculture to re-connect with the City so that people understand were their food comes from and how it is produced. The same science used to produce GMO crops is also the same science used to produce life saving medicines.
fairgro
1/10/2012 7:23:29 AM

The entire US food chain has been GM for over a decade and a half now. Corn, soy and cottonseed are used almost exclusively to feed cattle, pigs and poultry, and this is >90% GM, with the only effect being that the population is becoming more obese due to the plentiful supply of economical food. Do the Greens consider their policy ramifications_ more expensive food with a less reliable supply? look at what started the Arab Spring. and if the Australian organic movement accepted international standards of adventitious presence, there would be no problems. It's the politics, stupid!
John Newton
1/10/2012 7:29:21 AM

'GM technology development, with its potential to generate varieties with drought and even frost tolerance, or grow in soils where virtually nothing exists.' We've been hearing about this potential for nie on 30 years and so far? Pour on the glyphosate. There's nothing luddite (two 'd's Top Ender) innot supporting junk science
Hebe
1/10/2012 7:49:39 AM

I couldn't agree with Ms Arabia's suggestions that a benefit to all would be by taking an 'evidence-based' approach to GM issues and being open to 'robust, scientific results' of a 'Gold standard' which are published in 'peer reveiewed journals' This is all that opponents to GM have ever asked for. And yet when they present this evidence it is instantly dismissed by the GM supporters. The latest Seralini study is a prime example.
John Newton
1/10/2012 9:20:28 AM

OK. A challenge to all pro-GM people. It'll cost you $2.50 and 82 minutes of your time. Watch this movie http://geneticroulettemovie.com/ and if, after watching it, you dismiss every single claim, then there is nothing more to be said. The GM industry presents itself as gold standard science. Yet - where are the longitudinal animal studies where are any independent studies done on GM foods before releasing them on the market? Anyway, put up your $2.50 set aside 82 minutes and watch the film.
Fred
1/10/2012 9:46:38 AM

The sooner the Greens' influence is out of Australian politics the better off Australia will be. The Greens and their like minded do-gooders wish for Australia to show the rest of the world how things should be done. The problem is the rest of the world doesn't give a damn about what we are trying to "show them" and happily going on their own merry way, stealing our markets and producing GM foods which our big chains are happy to supply to the Aus consumer.
rosco
1/10/2012 10:26:16 AM

....ssshhhh. Dont talk about it too much - we might lose RRcanola. You would hope that the Greens don't influence the Labor party like they did with the carbon tax. Otherwise we will go back 10 years. Sounds like organic farming is more important to the Greens than conventional farming. A bit of the "tail wagging the dog".
rederick
1/10/2012 12:31:17 PM

Headlines in US, poor white women have had their live expectancy cut short by 5 years. we wouldn't know whether this is a result of eating a GM diet as there is no labelling, but this is unusual in a 1st world country.
rosco
1/10/2012 1:43:53 PM

Reduction of life expectancy in poor, white women in US would be linked to a diet too high in saturated fats, sugars etc. and a sedentary lifestyle. Most nutritionists, even those in Australia. would probably say the same. rederick- to make a link to the presence of GM foods in the diet is irresponsible.
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