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Governments duped over GM food crops


Most Australian states have started reviews of their 2004 GM Acts which carry a de facto moratorium on growing genetically modified (GM) crops. The pro-GM lobby has responded with an orchestrated campaign.

Liberal insider Guy Pearce’s website, High and Dry, tells how the Howard government’s climate change policies became captive to the "greenhouse mafia" because of an ideology of neo-liberal economics. A ‘GM mafia’ has captured the Federal political scene and is pressuring State GM Reviews.

"In the absence of consumer take-up of its products, selling stocks has become a biotech industry lifeline", stated The Wall Street Journal in 2004. In ‘Biotech's dismal bottom line: More than $40 billion in losses’, it spelt out the immediate GM agenda.

Australian State governments been caught up in a religious type rapture over biotech promises of silver bullets. They have become naïve investors seemingly unaware of biotech economic strategies. Industry lobbyists such the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and its PR arm the Australian Environment Foundation have egged them on.

More importantly, big long-term profits for biotech companies will come through monopoly control of the food industry.

To achieve this, government mechanisms have been white-anted. In Australia, it means implementing the biotech led Trade Related Intellectual Properties (TRIPs) Agreement of the WTO and manipulating both the Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) and Food and Safety Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).

Australia has implemented patenting laws that benefit GM seed companies. These are reinforced by the US-Aus Free Trade Agreement. (Pharmaceuticals are under the same threat). Farmers will be forced to buy GM patented seed and consumers will have no choice but to buy GM food in a monopoly system. The TRIPs office within DFAT has proved reluctant to reveal who forms Australian policy on patenting at WTO meetings.

The next step is to have federal bureaucracies help implement biotech monopoly of the food chain. The OGTR was set up to guarantee health and environmental standards but is headed by Dr Sue Meek who formerly promoted biotech based industries. The OGTR has approved GM crops without regard for the ‘precautionary principle’. This lack of caution is evidenced by the GM contamination of Australian canola seed.

Governments duped over GM food cropsGM contamination of the crops of conventional breeders and organic growers suits the long-term economic goals of the biotech companies; to undermine economic rivals. The OGTR is only restrained by State GM Acts of 2004 which have shown at least some concern for the economics of farmers about issues such as seed separation. That is why the State Reviews are under attack.

An aspect deserving attention is the negative effects of GM plants on the genetics of the natural environment. In economic terms it is a mere externality. However, for wheat and other food crops, cross pollination means GM contamination of genetic riches. It will grow worse as Roundup-Ready (gluphosate) crops become ineffective and replaced by Agent Orange related Dicamba-Ready GM crops.

The OGTR does no independent testing about health or environmental impacts. It relies on what the biotech companies tell them. Independent testing by the iconic CSIRO has all but stopped as it has been forced to form profit-oriented commercial partnership with biotech companies. These are bound by confidentiality clauses.

FSANZ, like OGTR, does no independent testing yet controls the approval of foods for consumption and food labelling. Food ingredients under one per cent GM go unlabelled. Even the report of Minister McGauran prepared by ACIL Tasman says that ‘consumers in some countries are not aware they are purchasing and consuming products containing GM foods. It is of note that co-founder of ACIL Tasman, David Trebeck, is on the board of Graincorp.

Information presented in the media has been deliberately limited or given as spin. The reports of Jason Koutsoukis are examples of creating the impression that lifting GM moratoriums is a done deal and consumers are for it. When reporting on a survey on customer attitudes to GM by Biotechnology Australia his article did not explain that key survey questions were prefaced with ‘What if?’ caveats supposing evidence about health safety and benefits.

The Catholic Church in India is responding to the alarming number of suicides among farmers, many because of failed GM cotton crops. It would be good to see Catholic moralists and ethical institutes in Australia venture out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. Morality is about care for God’s gift of life in every form. It means addressing what the alliance of the ‘GM-mafia’ and neo-liberal economics is doing. 

Recommended Websites:

Concerned Farmers 
Science in Society 
Gene Watch




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Existing comments

I am SO horrified that this Govts sneaky "back door" politics can even endanger the food and environment of our future generations.GM products could be causing the bee death crisis in the US- we do not know the long term effects.WE MUST STOP GM CROPS and remain a clean country..........

Sue Hallam | 23 August 2007  

It would be good if this could be an election issue, complete with the full information about GM's consequences in monopolisation, control by biotech companies, costs in seed-buying, loss of diversity.
And we all need a full account of what Monsanto gets up to in other countries, in trying to own water as well as biotech and agricultural business.

val | 24 August 2007  

I hope this article gets widespread attention. So often arguments in the popular press against GM crops are put forward in emotive terms and on on issues such as nutritional value, safety to human health etc.(also, of course, very important issues). But, it seems to me, such a narrow critique has allowed bio-tech companies to escape the type of scruting offered by the above article.
So- Many thanks to Charles Rue

Betsy Conti | 25 August 2007  

It 's so sad to see out Govt becoming more and more fascist.Can't anyone remember what fascism is?There was a whole war over it but alas, it could have been contrived, like the wars we are currently engaged in!

russell walsh | 26 August 2007  

At least y'all are fighting back and you have a government that at least puts up a pretense of having to be persuaded. Here in the States the regulatory agencies might as well be housed in the Monsanto plant. Hell, we can't even get labels on food that contains GMO. Support your local family farmer!

Joe Naftel | 26 August 2007  

This is a very important article on a vital subject that is not receiving the attention it deserves. I'm a member of a newly formed group Madge - mothers against genetic engineering, trying to stop the GM moratorium being lifted. Our website www.madge.org.au has lots of information about the issue.

Fran Murrell | 27 August 2007  

What a load of rubbish. We already have GM Cotton here, which uses 1/2 the amount of insectercide to conventional cotton. We also have Trizene Tolerent Canola which was bred "naturally". So to say Monsanto will have a monopaly is wrong. "Roundup Ready" is only a tool. It will not be a silver bullet. It will not dominate the market, esp with Farmers already worried about Glyphospate resistant weeds already. The GM crops that are more intresting to farmers are frost resitant and better water usage crops. With Climate change, these could be much more important to the world.

Martin Flanagan | 01 September 2007  

Thank you Charles Rue for having the courage to speak out. Why isn't the Catholic Church at the forefront of the GE debate ? GE is all about the ability to patent living organisms and then claim corporate ownership of 'inventions' such as corn and soy ! Let's not wait for Monsanto
to redefine what the 'integrity of creation' means.

Kim Healy | 05 September 2007  

Many of my family members are suffering health problems brought about by scientific interference of natural foods by so-called 'progressive technology'. This is not to deny that science has greatly helped the human condition.
How many of us are losing close ones due to cancer and other modern ailments which are proliferating at an alarming rate.
I am not exaggerating, you can find the information for yourself.
When are governments going to wake up to the powerful vested interests who are manipulating our food for their own financial advancement.
This exploitation must be stopped NOW !!

pam jordan | 06 September 2007  

I think Australians have been asleep at the wheel (this includes me) about the threat posed to the planet as we know it by GM. For the last 5 months I have put everything aside to concentrate on campaigning against GM. It's us, the consumers, who have to do it. This is an excellent hard hitting article which does not exaggerate the problem. I urge everyone to do more.

sally wylie | 06 February 2008  

Most scientists try to make GM plants like somethings that brought from another planets. Above all, these seeds belong here from the creation of world. Why makes some people afraid these plants like somethings you wants from substances rethan seeds have here from generation to generations?

David | 02 June 2008  

VAL - lets make it an election issue. *Cross polination *Horizontal gene transfer *destruction of exisitng food crops. just to name a few problems. Other countries are banning GM food and crops why is Australia so blind.$$$ Who is really controlling our country?

linn | 13 January 2011  

6 years on. recent world rallies “March against Monsanto” may 26th 2003 is yet greater testament of consumer resistance to the globalisation of agriculture and food systems. That our food supply be owned by so few corporations beggars believe.. Yet GM has not proven itself, where is the "scientific " proof that supports the "Scientific" rhetoric, pro GM washed its PR with? Not only was society promised so much, but GM has delivered so little. It has not solved the starving millions in Africa or supported a healthy food supply. Practical science shows that resistance has grown with "super" weeds & pests that require increased pesticides, herbicide ratios. Contamination? terminator seeds proved less of a threat than the actual contamination of whole commodities E.g corn soya USA & Canadian canola, with such decreasing world exports, USA seems desperate to give as 3rd world “Aid”. GM is a failed experiment, and many farmers have suffered, suicides are just part of the consequences of destroying family farms, businesses & incomes. If lab mice, fed on GM grains are deformed, what about our children? Why are still entrusting our food supply to just a few.

catriona macmillan | 29 May 2013