6th January 2008
The debate over the lifting of the moratorium on genetically modified crops has worn on for many years and caused bitter division amongst Australian growers, the scientists, lobby groups, potential and current clients and the wider community.
This is of little surprise considering the level of emotion that has entered into the debate, with many Australian producers shaking their heads in disbelief and stopping just short of begging for some real scientific proof in order to make a sensible educated decision on the whole issue.
Fair call- this is after all the future of their livelihood. The very viability and survival of their business rests upon this one decision. Once having committed to sowing a G.M crop the die is cast and there is no return to their former situation. Few could blame Aussie farmers for being tempted by the claims made by GM suppliers that their seeds require less chemicals or, even more appealing, less water.
In the wake of both the NSW and Victorian governments agreeing to lift the moratorium on GM Canola by February this year, one cannot help to wonder at the motivation behind those who have pushed to have the ban lifted.
Of particular concern is the behaviour of one "Gustav Nossal" who led the scientific panel pushing for the NSW govt. to lift the ban. I certainly have no problem with those wishing to entertain various options on a whole range of issues- without discussion there can be no progress or understanding. What is of concern however is the fact that Nossal would not make the report public until the government had lifted the bans on GM which his panel apparently found so obnoxious......
Why is this? Were the findings of the panel incomplete? Weighted in favour of the multinational GM suppliers? Why would Nossal not wish the Australian people to engage in open debate over what they would be feeding their families?
If GM products really are 100% safe or desirable, why won't either Canada or the U.S allow the release and commercialisation of GM wheat?
Nossal has made the claim that he has "confidence that GM and non GM produce can be kept separate from the farmgate through to the supermarket shelves". Yes- at what cost?
Perhaps this is the true motivation behind Nossal's push for the lift (despite the pleas by Tasmania and WA to reverse the decision) of the moratorium- the opportunity to make more money. Think about what is required for the produce to be kept separate from the farmgate to the supermarket. Does Nossal envisage a dual transport system for produce in order to avoid cross contamination? The nightmare of charges and levies placed upon the farmer in order to have his produce tested and certified so he can back up his claim his produce really is "GM Free".
NSW Primary Industry Minister Ian MacDonald has made very reassuring noises that there will be "strict labelling laws" so Australian consumers can make an informed choice about GM food and the content of their purchases.
Great to know- something like the labelling regulations that help Aussies ascertain whether their purchases really are Australian made? The level of imported ingredients in their food? Country of origin of the product's manufacturer, level of Australian ownership or employment? Let's face it- Australian "labelling laws" are a sick joke and Australians can have little faith in the claims made by politicians that they will protect our right to make an informed choice about anything.
In a world where 70% of canola produced is GM, surely Australian producers should be permitted to err on the side of caution and protect their status as non GM producers? Clearly our customers believe so with groups such as the Consumers Union of Japan calling upon our governments to re-impose the moratorium as the Japanese marketplace just will not entertain the idea of consuming GM food.
Canada once received a premium for the GM free produce which was lost once they accepted GM Canola. This premium which amounts to $70/ tonne over Canadian produce was transferred to Australian producers thanks to our GM Free status.
The National Network of Concerned Farmers has claimed the lifting of the moratorium will cost non GM farmers over $65million per year and together both GM and non GM farmers will face losses of up to $82 million per year.
Non GM farmers will be expected to carry the costs of separation, a dubious exercise in itself considering Canada was unable to guarantee segregation and has suffered price penalties and market rejection.
Few could blame local farmers for considering the idea of GM seeds for their crops, particularly in times of drought. However, considering the seeds on offer have been produced for Northern Hemisphere clients, there is strong doubt they would perform well in our situation. Likewise, claims made that GM crops have a higher yield are also dubious and considered by many to be inflated. The income from higher yields (around 2%) would be insignificant when compared to the loss of premiums and income loss as clients such as Japan (who purchase up to 80% of some state's produce, as in WA) seek suppliers elsewhere.
It would be fair to assume the whole affair is nothing more than the continued campaign by economic rationalists and Global Village Idiots in their quest for a fictitious "level playing field".
As always, the level playing field requires us to lower our standards, give up self determination and sovereignty and costs our nation dearly in the end.
Reports indicate that South Australia is reconsidering it's own moratorium on GM foods. Considering Premier Rann's penchant for pandering to Global Village Idiot ideology and past displays of unbelievable arrogance- perhaps now is the time for local producers to seriously consider if the time is right to head down this path and whether the long term cost involved is a price they really are willing to pay.