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  • Tewolde - quote
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Resistance to GM in the Australo-Pacific region

 

 

 

Key Information

Despite historically being among the nations that are more cautious about GM, commercial crops are being grown in Australia, and in New Zealand there are increasing numbers of crop trials. In both countries there is considerable opposition, and while the only crop decontamination to hit the international news in recent years was the destruction of GM trees in New Zealand last year, both countries have active campaigns against GM.

 

Context

Ronald McDonald says his Chicks are GM fed

While South Australia and Tasmania hold complete moratoriums on cultivation of GM crops, GM cotton and canola (GM rapeseed) are currently being grown in some Australian states.1 New Zealand had a moratorium on GM until 2003, and since then has not approved any GM varieties for cultivation, however they have recently started investigating GM animals2 3 and conducting field trials of GM crops, including brassicas4, onions5 and trees.6 Most GM food in Australia and New Zealand comes in the form of imported processed foods containing soya, maize or canola.7 Australia and New Zealand do have labelling laws, but there are many exceptions, such as animal products, highly refined ingredients, flavourings and food in restaurants and take-aways.8

 

Australia

Diverse groups against GM in Australia include: the Network of Concerned Farmers, a major campaign group which unites big and small farmers opposed to GM in Australia, and voices concerns about the economic problems caused by GE contamination, increased dependency on corporations, as well as the health and environmental impacts of GE; MadGE, (Mothers are Demystifying Genetic Engineering) who mostly campaign on health issues, and who are most famous for a billboard depicting a four-breasted woman hooked up to an industrial milking machine; Network of Consumers for GM free food, who again focus on food safety; and Gene Ethics who, in their own words, campaign for a "safer, more equitable and more sustainable GM-free society."

2009

Margaret Fulton, chef, says GM is against everything she stands forFarmers in Western Australia gathered on the front steps of Parliament House and conducted a daylight hunger strike demanding an end to GM canola trials.9

2008

  • 'GM Cropwatch' conducted tests in areas where GM crops were being grown, and found GM canola lying on the opposite side of the road from where it was being cultivated.10 A 'community clean-up' was held to get rid of the contamination.11
  • Around 700 scientists, nutritionists and doctors, including representatives of the Public Health Asociation sent a letter to the Prime Minister stating that GM canola has not been adequately tested for human consumption, and should not be planted.
  • Demonstrations were held and petitions were signed in Mount Barker and Perth demanding a ban on GM.12
  • Greenpeace did a banner drop on a railway station in protest as the state of Victoria lifted it's GM food ban.13
  • The group Gene Ethics published maps of the trial sites of GM canola.14

 

New Zealand

Brassica trials halted

In 2008 members of the Soil and Health Association (promoting organic farming) observed that the brassicas had not only been left on the site months after they were supposed to have been removed, they had also been allowed to flower, in clear breach of the conditions for the trial.15 Agriculture and Forestry - Biosecurity New Zealand denied this breach, but had to back down when presented with photographic evidence, and the trials were halted in early 2009.16

GE Trees Cut Down

In 2008 activists burrowed underground and cut through wires to access a site where GE pine saplings were being grown. They succeeded in chopping 19 saplings, and then left a spade with a GE FREE New Zealand sticker on it.17 There had been a previous attempt in 2005, when people gathered publicly with banners and 4 people were arrested.18

Consumer campaigning

'People's Moratorium Enforcment Agents' blockaded the trucks of companies importing GE soya, and covered contaminated products in stickers in the supermarkets. In 2003 the PMEA promised a day of direct action targeting Arnott's, a leading Australian biscuit manufacturer. Arnott's swiftly announced a commitment not to use GE ingredients, and the protests were called off.19

Greenpeace New Zealand has led a consumer campaign targeting products known to have GE ingredients, which has included publishing a shopper's guide to guaranteed GE free food20. Greenpeace and grassroots groups have targeted fast food outlets with banners and bloackades.

 

Read more:

Footnotes

1: 'GM technology: Frequently Asked Questions', Government of Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food, March 2009, available at www.agric.wa.gov.au/content/food/GMtechnolgoyFAQs.pdf, last viewed 10.05.10

2: 'Annual report on GM inspection and enforcement activities: 01 April 2007 - 31 March 2008', GM Inspectorate, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, available at http://www.gm-inspectorate.gov.uk/reportsPublications/, last viewed 10.05.10

3: Agresearch website, Transgenic Livestock Programme, undated, http://www.agresearch.co.nz/transgenic/default.asp, last viewed 10.05.10

4: New Zealand's Lucky Escape After GE Trial Breach, 19.03.2009, http://www.gefree.org.nz/press/20090319.htm, last viewed 10.05.10

5: 'Current Awareness of Experimental and Commercial Releases of GM Crops Worldwide: Summary Report for period September 2007 to August 2008' GM Inspectorate, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, www.gm-inspectorate.gov.uk/ reportsPublications/documents/ GM_crops_routine_surveillance_Sep_07_to_Aug_08.pdf, last viewed 10.05.10

6: 'Losing the forest for the trees: Tree Monocultures and the Biofuel Boom', 01.05.08, http://www.irishseedsavers.ie/article.php?artid=420, last viewed 10.05.10

7: 'GM technology: Frequently Asked Questions', Government of Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food, March 2009, available at www.agric.wa.gov.au/content/food/GMtechnolgoyFAQs.pdf, last viewed 10.05.10

8: 'GE Free Food Guide: 6th edition', undated, http://www.gefreefood.org.nz/about.asp, last viewed 10.05.10

9: Williams farmers continue fast over GM crop trials,The West Australian, http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=146&ContentID=141486, last viewed 17.05.10

10: 'GM canola found on roadside: Cropwatch', 26.11.08, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/11/26/2429844.htm, last viewed 17.05.10

11: 'Community clean up of GE contamination at Horsham', 26.11.08, http://www.geneethics.org/resource/index/3, last viewed 17.05.10

12: 'Protesters demand GM crops ban', 06.11.08, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/11/06/2412059.htm, last viewed 17.05.10

13: 'Flinders Street GM Protest', 31.01.08, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/01/31/2150789.htm, last viewed 17.05.10

14: Victorian and NSW GM canola site register, undated, http://www.geneethics.org/, last viewed 17.05.10

15: Williams, David, 'GE activists call for trials to be ended,' The Press, 20.01.09, http://www.gefree.org.nz/press/20081222.htm, last viewed 17.05.10

16: New Zealand Better Off After GE trials Cancelled, 11.02.2009, http://www.gefree.org.nz/press/20090209.htm, last viewed 10.05.10

17: Rowan, Juliet, 'GE protesters chop down trees at research institute', NZ HERALD, 17.01.08, www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=220&objectid=10487207, last viewed 10.05.10

18: GE crop decontamination attempted at Rotorua, 30.01.05, http://indymedia.org.nz/newswire/display/29085/index.php, last viewed 17.05.10

19: O'Neill, Graeme, Arnotts crumbles in face of anti-GM action, 15.12.03, https://www.biotechnews.com.au/article/29901/ arnotts_crumbles_face_anti-gm_action, last viewed 10.05.10

20: 'New GE-Free Food Guide out now!' 30.01.08, http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/ news/new-ge-free-food-guide-out-no, last viewed 17.05.10