Perth protest against GM

31 May, 2013 02:00 AM
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6
 
Protestors at the anti-GM rally held in Perth last Saturday.
Protestors at the anti-GM rally held in Perth last Saturday.

MORE than 1600 people attended an anti-GM protest march in Perth last Saturday.

The protest was aimed at agri-chemical giant Monsanto, the presence of GM crops in Australia and the need to change to food labelling laws in WA.

As part of a global movement, which involved 400 cities throughout 60 countries, the March Against Monsanto protest, saw an additional 300 people participate in Albany.

Event organiser and Food Watch representative, Janet Grogan, Karrinyup, said Monsanto was in control of much of the world's food supply.

"It owns 90 per cent of all genetically modified seeds and about 27pc of commercial seeds," Ms Grogan said.

"It is now attempting to expand patent rights over foods that it has not yet engineered."

Ms Grogan cited concerns that GM could not be controlled and said contamination was inevitable.

She also said the health implications of GM were not yet known.

The event saw protesters march from Parliament House, through Perth CBD, to finish at a rally in Russell Square, where representatives of the Labor Party and The Greens, as well as chefs and representatives of the Network of Concerned Farmers, spoke.

More than 800 attendees signed a petition which called for changes and increased transparency in food labelling laws.

Ms Grogan said that changes to labelling would provide consumers with a choice, which she believed Monsanto had taken away.

"Labelling laws in Australia are ridiculous," she said. "We don't label anything, everything flies under the radar.

"We want proper laws that are meaningful."

Ms Grogan said participants had travelled from the South West and from as far as the Eastern Wheatbelt to attend the event.

"It pulls people together, not just city people but rural people as well," she said.

As part of the anti-GM protest, Ms Gorgan estimated that 8pc of canola grown in WA was GM.

"So we are looking at 92pc of canola growers who are not growing GM. So it is a tiny minority that really seem to be dictating the way things are running," she said.

"They are the ones who are threatening the farmers who want to grow non-GM because they are calling for it."

Ms Grogan said the group wanted animal feed, products from GM fed animals and everyday products labelled.

"We also want a shake-up of our regulatory body, because it is the mouthpiece for Monsanto," she said.

Morawa farmer and GM advocate Bill Crabtree said GM crops provided WA growers with choice.

"We are competing on an international market and our competitors overseas have the choice of GM and have had it for 16 years," Mr Crabtree said.

"Since they have had it that long the adoption rates have risen to 90pc plus in all crops."

Mr Crabtree cited Canada as an example where the inital uptake of GM technology was slow, but had experienced growth with 96pc of canola now GM.

He said one of the key reasons growers were reluctant to embrace the technology was because they felt intimidated.

"They feel threatened by these sorts of protest meetings and feel that maybe they shouldn't be using it because there is something wrong with it," he said.

"But of course there is nothing wrong with the technology, it is safe.

"It is just modifying genes which normal plant breeding does anyway.

"So from a scientific point of view the technology is very safe."

He said it was sad that people in the city who knew little about agriculture often listened to the protest messages.

He was frustrated because such protests were emotional, anti-science and were causing damage to the industry.

Mr Crabtree said herbicide resistence was a growing problem world-wide, particularly in the US and Europe.

For him the correct strategy was to take Canada's approach by employing GM crops and soil residual herbicides in the farming system.

"What we need is many different forms of GM crops to manage resistant weeds," he said.

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READER COMMENTS

Had Enough Huek
31/05/2013 12:41:00 PM, on Farm Weekly

Ms Grogan 1600 people attended your march out of a population of 2.4 mil in WA. Even if only 1 in 100 people who feel strongly on this issue attended that is a % of the population of 6.6%. As you say 8 % of the canola Ha's is insignificant then by your logic 6.6% is not a big enough proportion of the population to worry about. Change will add undue cost to our food and raise the cost of living for allready tight household bubgets over a non-issue, first world problem, dreamt up by people who have never been hungry in their life.
Health issue
1/06/2013 12:26:11 PM, on Farm Weekly

Well I hope you have private health insurance as have you priced Healthcare lately? Cancer is predominantly a first world problem! Till the right testing has been done over a sustained period of time you have no right to push these products on our society or environment! Just do the tests why is that so hard if you are so adamant they are safe! Big business controls the household budgets and the food budget is the first to be downsized when times are tough! Big business has a win win raise the petrol we buy crap food and then we get sick. who is the winner BIG BUSINESS and its people pawns!
Alice
1/06/2013 7:24:06 PM, on Farm Weekly

"Change will add undue cost to our food" - I couldn't agree more so keep GM crops out of Australia. GM crops are the introduced change. They offer no benefit to consumers. They are simply a weed treatment option that ends up on the supermarket shelf as food. But increasing herbicide-resistant weeds means any perceived benefit to farmers is short-lived and costly.
Bob Phelps
1/06/2013 8:04:13 PM, on Farm Weekly

A 1994 survey found 89% of Australians wanted all products of genetic manipulation (GM) techniques to be labelled. Many later surveys all found over 90% want full and honest GM labelling. See e.g. http://www.swinburne.edu.au/lss/s pru/spru-monitor.html But GM vege oils, starches & sugars, & meat, milk and eggs of animals fed GM, are all exempt from GM labels. GM 'feeding the world' is a furphy as GM varieties yield no more than good conventional canola. And the UN says there is plenty of food for everyone, but it's traded for maximum profits, not to feed the hungry. 30% of food is wasted too.
sally
1/06/2013 9:26:21 PM, on Farm Weekly

To Mr Had Enough, will you please tell me how many people have walked into a shop looking for genetically modified food. We don't want it.
Hebe
3/06/2013 1:00:26 PM, on Farm Weekly

It is time that the media started asking for scientific proof when people say that GM foods are safe. There have never been any safety studies on GM food and human consumption. To state that they are safe for us to eat has no scientific basis. And Bill should take a closer look at Canada where there is a high demand for non-GM canola this year with growers ramping up production.

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