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Gene Ethics Website in Transition

17 June 2013
While we are making changes here, for the latest GM-free news please visit our Facebook at: http://tinyurl.com/czgdz6c and become our friend. Together, we are winning GM-free futures.


Please also visit our donation page: http://www.geneethics.org/donate



Peace, joy and thanks,

 Gene Ethics

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Our comments on National School Technologies Curriculum

20 May 2013

Our comments began: "We work cooperatively and positively with schools to help students understand new and emerging technology issues and the impacts of technology on individuals and society, throughout technology and product life cycles. We are particularly committed to nurturing the robust knowledge, skills and values essential to the proactive and responsible practice of ethical, just and sustainable technology design, development, production, marketing and use.



We seek a school technologies curriculum that fully equips and engages Australian students for life in our increasingly globalised, technological world, whilst also fully developing their critical faculties, sense of personal and social responsibility and commitment to core principles and values.


We also seek to promote through the curriculum a full appreciation, understanding and commitment to the key role that strong, ethical, precautionary regulation can play to ensure fairness, justice, equity and sustainability (through Life Cycle Analysis and Assessment) of the development, production and use of appropriate technologies.



 


The comments are available to download here

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Download our latest newsletter

20 May 2013

Download the newsletter here


Contents include:


1. March Against Monsanto: Saturday May 25th
2. Europe resists corporate control of GM and conventional seed
3. US FDA deciding if GM salmon are fit to eat
4. Vandana Shiva campaigns on GM bananas in India
5. GM industry annual report again fudges the figures
6. Fire sale of GM canola seed continues
7. De-extinction a furphy
8. Proposed harmonisation of GM production, regulation and trade
9. Your annual donation and membership
10. Gene Ethics letter writers published

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March Against Monsanto: Saturday May 25th at 2pm

16 May 2013

 


Please join or create a March Against Monsanto in your town.

See what's happening globally at: http://on.fb.me/ZUxe3o

Find the cities already participating: http://bit.ly/ZTDsk8

Start a MAM in your town, here: http://on.fb.me/16qw2r4

 

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Australia Marches Against Monsanto

16 May 2013
Sydney: http://on.fb.me/XRruV6 NB: Noon, Archibald Fountain, Hyde Park North nomonsantosydoz@gmail.com


Bellingen, NSWhttp://on.fb.me/12WDEh9 NB: 9am, Bellingen Council Chambersmarguerite.montes556@gmail.com


Redcliffe, QLDhttp://on.fb.me/10fhR5C    2pm in PDT


Brisbane: http://on.fb.me/12HdWjh  2pm King George Square marchagainstmonsantobrisbane@gmail.com


Adelaide: http://on.fb.me/125kFCy  NB: 11am, Parliament House North Terrace


Melbournehttp://on.fb.me/17FMbKS  2pm State Library of Victoria marchagainstmonsantomelbourne@gmail.com


Perthhttp://on.fb.me/14v5xno  2pm at Parliament, march to Russell Sq, Northbridge


Hobarthttp://on.fb.me/ZwEjox  2pm Parliament Lawns   


We will not accept inside deals and GM and agrichemical industry control of our food supply. We March Against Monsanto because:


Please March on May 25 to show Monsanto and other GM companies that we challenge their plans.

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25yrs of GM-free advocacy & GM still a dud

21 February 2013

Gene Ethics, Australia’s first GM-free public interest advocacy and education network, began in 1988 and on Tuesday celebrated 25 years of successful campaigning. Midnight Oil's album "Species Deceases" funded our first three years.


Gene Ethics founder and director Bob Phelps told the gala dinner in Melbourne, hosted by restaurateur Dure Dara: “I visited Monsanto's world HQ in St Louis Missouri USA in 1988 but was unconvinced by the company's promises of a benign life sciences revolution in farming and food production through genetic manipulation (GM).


“They showed off research labs and dairies studying: injectable bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk yield in dairy cows; crop plants that make their own Bt insect toxins to kill some caterpillars; and Roundup tolerant crops, able to survive being sprayed with the potent weed killer.


“They claimed patented GM seed and agrichemicals would create a profit bonanza, with GM crops and animals soon dominating farming world-wide.


“These three GM products were launched in the USA in the 1990s and after 17 years remain the only commercial GM products available on a measurable scale, according to industry figures.


“GM technology is a dud and the industry has stalled. rBGH was never used outside the USA because of its impacts on animal health. US farmers still grow 45% of the world's commercial GM soy, corn, canola and cotton. Most GM goes into animal feed and biofuels as shoppers won’t swallow GM foods.


“Other GM industry promises: higher yields; nitrogen fixation in grains; leaner, more productive animals; salt and drought tolerant crops; and longer shelf life, more nutritious foods are elusive."


These traits depend on many genes, which can't be cut-and-pasted between organisms. As CSIRO Plant Industry's Dr Richard Richards says: “GM technologies are generally only suitable for the single gene traits, not complex multigenic ones.”


Mr Phelps continued: “Organic certifiers and growers have always been our allies, holding shared values of safe, clean, green, nutritious food and fibre that enhance nature, from seed and soil to spoon. We support their bans on GM, synthetic chemicals, irradiation and nanotechnology."


The booming interest in sustainable food production systems is a path to future food security as industrial agriculture depends on depleting oil and phosphate reserves, when land and water are becoming more scarce and the climate is changing.


Gene Ethics' 25 years of GM-free advocacy has paid off and we are now part of a global movement with 165 countries remaining GM-free.


“We can celebrate that only four crops have been genetically manipulated with two traits and the vast majority of the world’s farms in 165 countries are still GM-free,” Mr Phelps concludes.


Media release & links to further info






A special thank you to our sponsors:


Margaret Fulton


Temple Bruer - organic wines


Rosnay Organic - organic wines


Spiral Foods - for their tasty snacks & green teas


Pureharvest - for their non-GM labelled juices & milk alternatives


Organic Wholefoods - ethical retailing


Universal Village - fairtrade organic teas


Nui - Pacific fairtrade brand 


Vasili's Garden - Garden, cafe & grass-roots TV show


Holmgren Design Services - Permaculture education, tours & resources


Spinifex Press - Specialists in eco-feminist, sustainable food & food security books.


Organic Gardener magazine


Mildura Brewery - owner Stefano de Pieri's seasonal beers, pub & more


Moon Under Water - Chef Andrew McConnell's latest eatery, at the Builders Arms Hotel.


Piccoli Photography - portraits


Holy Goat Cheese - contact Central Victorian Providores 03 54725200




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GM industry fudges its figures again

04 February 2013

GM industry front group ISAAA has published its 2012 annual reports on commercial genetically manipulated (GM) crops. There is a remarkable absence of 2012 statistics and their four reports recycle figures and empty claims from 2011.


These reports reconfirm the GM crop industry has stalled as they offer just the same four broad-acre GM crops and two traits launched in 1996.


ISAAA presents one or two page briefs on soybean, corn, canola and cotton with the same two traits - Roundup herbicide tolerance and plants to make their own Bt insect toxins that kill the caterpillars of some moths (helicoverpa).


This is in stark contrast to previous reports that gave copious statistics, maps and made great claims for the rapid growth and acceptance of GM crops. 


ISAAA's soybean report says:


"Biotech soybean hectarage dropped in both the USA (29.2 million hectares) and Argentina (19.2 million hectares)."


And 75% was Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy, most of which goes to animal feed or biofuel production as few people want to eat GM if informed on labels.


ISAAA also claims two innovations last year: more maize (corn) stacked with double and triple genes for the same herbicide tolerance and Bt traits as before.


Gene Ethics Director Bob Phelps says: "This is just more of the same, putting pressure on insects and weeds to adapt and become even bigger management problems than before.


"ISAAA fails to admit that insect resistance to Bt and Roundup tolerant weeds challenge farmers wherever GM crops are grown and require the use of tank mixes of more toxic synthetic chemicals."


ISAAA also reported: "prospects of drought tolerant maize, expected to be commercialised in 2012".


But no actual plantings are reported and ISAAA merely asserts that: "Demand for feed maize to meet higher meat consumption will continue to increase," and: "Maize is continually being used for ethanol production in the US, estimated at 40% to 50% of total maize hectarage in 2011, contributing to increased demand as well."


Mr Phelps says: "It's wishful thinking that increased demand for a product will magically enable a failed technology to deliver on its false promises."


"Unsurprisingly, Monsanto's 2013 Pipeline Update makes similar claims to the ISAAA with a focus on yield - not the diverse agronomic and quality traits that farmers and shoppers were promised for the past 30 years.


"GM development pipelines contain only empty promises. Let's move on," Mr Phelps concludes. 


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Regulators must assess viral gene hidden in GM crops and foods

22 January 2013
The discovery of a Trojan viral gene in many commercial genetically manipulated (GM) crop plants and foods should trigger a wide-ranging review and recall by Australian GM regulatory agencies.

Though the hidden sequence appears not to code for known allergens in existing databases, as its presence was unknown to them our regulators are unlikely to have assessed its impacts.

Experts working for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report that US and EU regulators of GM organisms have for 20 years inadvertently approved GM events (unique insertions of foreign DNA using GM techniques) that contain an unsuspected viral gene. 

Gene Ethics is therefore calling on our governments to direct the Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) and Food Standards Australia NZ (FSANZ) to immediately:


until comprehensive public safety reviews are completed.

"Their assessments must include both the short and long-term potentially negative human and animal health impacts of Gene VI," Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps concludes.

 


Background & paper here

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Gene Ethics 25th anniversary dinner

12 December 2012

Join us to celebrate 25 years of successful GM-free advocacy in Australia


Enjoy organic food & wine;  
Hear and share stories with GM-free pioneers;
Have a great night out with friends.


Where: The Merri Table at CERES city demonstration and educational farm.


 When: Tuesday, 19 February, 6 for 6.30pm. SOLD OUT www.geneethics25th.eventbrite.com.au.


The Merri Table serves local, seasonal organic food and is dedicated to paying a fair price to farmers for produce Chef Kieran Kilmartin turns into delecrable dishes. The venue uses sustainable materials, low energy appliances and minimises waste.


Founded in 1988, Gene Ethics was among the first education and advocacy groups in the world to question genetic manipulation (GM) techniques and their perilous products. Originally auspiced by the Australian Conservation Foundation with funds from Midnight Oil's album 'Species Deceases', Gene Ethics is Australia's fearless and effective voice for safe, secure, GM-free food.


The Deal


Arrive 6pm for sparkling organic, other wines and beverages.

Tickets $60 include 3-course organic meal, organic wines & other drinks.


The Meal


3-course sit-down organic meal. Drinks include Temple Bruer's 2006 Shiraz Malbec, recently awarded first place in the UK Soil Association's Organic Food and Wine Award and Rosnay's delicious sparkling Vintage Chardonnay.


The Feel


Dress up or come casual. If you have mementoes or memories of this long campaign, please bring them along to share with everyone.

Proceeds from the night will help resource further GM-free advocacy and education programs. 

Download flyer here Buy Tickets Share on Social Media


Getting there


CERES is just off Nicholson St, East on Stewart St on the corner of Roberts St.


Map reference: Melway - 30 B7


The Merri is one of the first buildings you see when you enter CERES Community Environment Park through the main gates on the corner of Roberts and Stewart Street in Brunswick East. There’s plenty of bike and car parking and it’s close to public transport.


To become a sponsor, please contact Vivienne by email or phone 02 9440 8021.


A special thank you to our sponsors so far:


Margaret Fulton


Holy Goat Cheese - contact Central Victorian Providores 03 54725200


Temple Bruer - organic wines


Rosnay Organic - organic wines


Spiral Foods - for their tasty snacks & green teas


Pureharvest - for their non-GM labelled juices & milk alternatives


Organic Wholefoods - ethical retailing


Universal Village - fairtrade teas


Nui - Pacific fairtrade brand 


Vasili's Garden - Garden, cafe & grass-roots TV show


Holmgren Design Services - Permaculture education, tours & resources


Spinifex Press - Specialists in eco-feminist, sustainable food & food security books.


Organic Gardener magazine


Mildura Brewery - owner Stefano de Pieri's seasonal beers, pub & more


Moon Under Water - Chef Andrew McConnell's latest eatery, at the Builders Arms Hotel.




YOUR BUSINESS NAME HERE
For sponsorship enquiries please contact Vivienne via email or phone 02 9440 8021.



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Baillieu GM canola farm for sale in Melb suburb

29 October 2012

Premier Ted Baillieu's uncle, Marshall Baillieu, has his "Minta" farm near Berwick on the market for housing subdivision. Baillieu grew genetically manipulated (GM) canola there in 2009.


Roundup tolerant GM canola weeds may remain on the land - even the Gene Technology Regulator confirms that canola seed may germinate for up to 16 years.


We are calling on Marshall Baillieu to advise the new owners and for the state government to declare the whole of Gippsland a GM-free Zone as they are empowered to do.


Monsanto's GM Technology User Agreement binds land-owners for 3 years to notify buyers that a GM crop was grown there. Monsanto also requires new owners to sign a stewardship agreement. The contract may have lapsed but Marshall Baillieu has a responsibility to tell potential land-buyers that GM canola was grown on his land and may still regrow for another decade.


Background 


Baillieu's GM canola plantings created a storm of local protest in 2009 at the farm gate and in a community forum, as local farmers and residents were angry that the crop was so close to them and could contaminate farms and beehives.


In Western Australia, Tasmania and NSW, GM canola has been spilt on roadsides and spread to neighbouring farms, creating time-consuming and expensive cleanups and court cases that are still unresolved. (Read, for instance, about Tasmania's GM canola contamination and state government cleanup since 2004 at: http://www.dpipwe.tas.gov.au/internnsf/WebPages/CART-6795X9?open.) GM canola contamination is the subject of a major court case in WA as a farmer lost his valuable organic certification in 2010 when GM canola contamination blew onto his farm.


Test strips to identify GM canola plants are available from GM Cropwatch, a Gene Ethics project, if new owners are concerned about GM canola weeds remaining on Baillieu's land.


 


References


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25-yr anniversary of GM-free advocacy: event & dinner

09 October 2012

Calling for sponsors for our silent auctions: National event & Melbourne dinner.


We are pleased to announce a fantastic GM-free celebration and awareness-raising of 25 years of GM-free advocacy in Australia in February 2013.


Gene Ethics was the first GM-free advocacy group in Australia and formed at a time when worldwide GM was on the cusp of being commercialised - and we have been campaigning and acting as a think tank ever since. 


We would love to involve as many GM-free organisations & businesses as possible and are looking for donations for our silent auction to be held at the dinner, as well as for possible rewards for online donations to raise much-needed funds and also spread the word about the plethora of wonderful GM-free businesses, food, clothing, restaurants etc.


The dinner to mark our quarter-century birthday will be at The Merri Table, CERES organic restaurant on 19 February with MC Dure Dara, OAM, to coincide with the annual GM-free Australia Alliance national meeting, and we will use the occasion to raise awareness about the failure of GM in living up to any of the promises while increasing costs, and also using the event to highlight the real dangers to our food supply such as GM wheat crops currently being trialled.


If you are thinking about coming to Melbourne for the dinner, you can also enjoy the sizeable Sustainable Living Festival that is taking place over this period.


Tickets $100/$60 - proceeds to support future advocacy & education campaigns.


Download flyer here


Thank you to our sponsors so far:


Temple Bruer - organic wines


Rosnay Organic - organic wines


Spiral Foods - for their tasty snacks & green teas


Pureharvest - for their non-GM labelled juices & milk alternatives


Organic Wholefoods - ethical retailing


Universal Village - fairtrade teas


Boire - French restaurant & wine bar


Nui - Pacific fairtrade brand providing the coffee


Vasili's Garden - Garden, cafe & grass-roots TV show


Margaret Fulton


Holy Goat Cheese - contact Central Victorian Providores 03 54725200


YOUR BUSINESS NAME HERE
For sponsorship enquiries please contact Vivienne via email or phone 02 9440 8021.

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Your Say: GM foods must be proven safe - petition

03 October 2012

Your Say: GM foods must be proven safe.
Petition Health Minister Tanya Plibersek to:


1. Require comprehensive labelling of all foods made using GM techniques.

2. Freeze all GM applications while past approvals are reassessed.

3. Immediately review FSANZ's safety assessment rules for GM foods.

http://protectourfood.good.do/safe-beyond-reasonable-doubt/email-the-members-of-the-parliament-of-australia/

Please click on the link above and add your name and email to the petition.

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National Food Plan a disaster for local food security

27 September 2012

The draft National Food Plan fully commits the Government to further research, develop and promote Genetically Manipulated (GM) crops, without any public discussion.


The sale of GM products is allowed without any truthful labelling, denying shoppers the right to know. Food labels will not disclose that new and dangerous GM, irradiated and nano-material technologies are used in the food supply.


Download comments submitted on the Green Paper


Media release here


Gene Ethics, as part of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, has been conducting meetings supporting an alternative Peoples' Food Plan, which goes beyond corporate interestes to listen to the variety of stakeholders, community groups and experts interested in safeguarding our food security and building resilient food systems for the future.


Download the People's Food Plan flyer here

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Occupy Monsanto international day of action

26 September 2012

On September 17, 2012 week-long protests began in St. Louis Missouri USA where Monsanto Corporation is headquartered. 


Occupy Monsanto events were also held in Argentina, Canada, Germany, India, Philippines & Australia - more than 70 protests worldwide. In Melbourne, citizens occupied Monsanto's Australian headquarters, while in Sydney the Occupy movement in Martin Place held a special session on genetically manipulated food and crops.


Occupy Monsanto confronts the industrial agriculture system, unified in pushing GM food back into the labs from which it came. Occupy Monsanto is an emerging network of concerned people who over the past 8 months staged numerous protests at companies connected to the global trade in genetically manipulated (GM) food and crops.


Download the Occupy Monsanto flyer here

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Food Plan input & meetings in September

13 September 2012

 


National Food Plan (NFP) - please comment by 30 September


The federal government is creating a National Food Plan (NFP) and wants your comments on the final draft. See here: http://www.daff.gov.au/nationalfoodplan/national-food-plan  The proposal serves the interests of agribusiness, the two big retail chains and foreign investors, by focusing on new technologies, foreign investment, minimal regulation, new export markets and freer trade.

Despite some window-dressing, the future food needs and security of all Australians and the squeeze on our soil and water resources are mostly ignored. Government's firm backing for genetically manipulated crops and GM foods is spelt out on Page 17 of the Summary paper. It makes unsupported claims for GM benefits and will still allow unlabelled GM food ingredients.

Please download and read the 20 page summary, and submit your comments by September 30 including the required cover sheet here: http://tinyurl.com/9qe8ux2

Some public meetings to discuss the NFP draft are still being held in September: http://tinyurl.com/9vw64of

Listen to our interview on Radio National's Breakfast with Fran Kelly here: 
http://tinyurl.com/9rgomz5



2. The People's Food Plan (PFP) - a democratic counterpoint to the NFP
 

Australians must have a secure, safe, sustainable and fresh local food supply. A vision of this future is being developed by a new coalition of community food advocates, the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA). Gene Ethics is a member. You can read an AFSA statement on PFP on their website. 

Over the next three months the Alliance wants to hold a series of kitchen table discussions and public forums around Australia, to collect your views on how we will feed ourselves. You are invited to contribute by hosting an event or participating in the focused discussions. Please express your interest by emailing: 
info@foodsovereigntyalliance.org
 
AFSA co-ordinator Nick Rose's compelling interview about the PFP, on Radio National's Bush Telegraph, is here.

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Gene Ethics turns 25 in January. Please give.

12 June 2012

To celebrate and support our many scintillating successes as educator, watchdog, expert and whistleblower for GM-free, please opt for regular monthly donations or make your tax-deductible donation by 30 June. Please also become a Gene Ethics member, as we rely 100% on your support – in kind and financial! Support our appeal


Our GM-free campaigns are going strong! Recent wins include: extended
bans on GM canola in SA (2019), Tasmania (2014) and the ACT (endless); farmers refusing to buy GM canola seed; KFC will only use GM-free Australian canola frying oil; well-informed, public support for GM-free in media debates; huge backing for fresh, local, clean and green GM-free foods; food production and processing industries that say ‘no’ to GM; many more foods labelled GM-free and organic in response to shopper demand; and strong resistance to trade deals that may sell out GM-free options.


Find out how you can do more, read about more successes & plans for the future – Download 2011-12 annual report/appeal pdf here.


Download Give/Join forms here


OR make your tax-deductible credit-card donation by phoning toll-free
1300 133 868. 


If you don’t need tax deductibility you can make a direct deposit into our account or find out more about how you can leave a bequest (contact us for more information).


For more information please go to www.geneethics.org/donate.


Here's why leading nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton supports us:


"We must continue to press for full GM food labelling. As most GM foods are not adequately labelled, we can't assess their health impacts. If the industry had nothing to hide, they would agree to full GM labelling."


Add your voice. Donate now and spread the word.

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KFC commits to non-GM Australian canola oil

24 May 2012

...But many others fry in GM cottonseed and canola oil


Gene Ethics congratulates KFC for its move to Australian non-Genetically Manipulated (non-GM), high-oleic canola oil this week.


Chief KFC supply chain officer Michael Clark says that at this stage the company will only buy non-GM canola oils. Mr lark also says: "Some consumers find it important that it's non- GM and if we can source non-GM canola we'll continue to do so."


This is good news, as it should be possible as far less than 10% of Australian canola is GM.


KFC spokesperson Angela Cooper also confirmed by email that: "We have been working closely with our suppliers to ensure our canola oil is not sourced from genetically modified canola seeds while also meeting the demand of our KFC stores nationwide. Our suppliers conduct regular testing ...


"But many other fast food outlets fry in GM canola oil or Peerless' Formula 40 cooking oil, made from Australian GM cottonseed oil.”


Formula 40's ingredients include: Vegetable Oil (95% min. Cottonseed Oil. See: http://www.peerlessfoods.com.au/store/viewItem.asp?IdProduct=5


Gene Ethics Executive Director Bob Phelps says: “More than 90% of Australian cotton is genetically manipulated (GM), to tolerate being sprayed with Roundup weedkiller and to make its own built in insect toxins. We question the safety, sustainability and environmental impacts of GM cotton production.


"The GM oil from cottonseed is marketed by Peerless as Formula 40 for frying fast foods or may be in generic vegetable oils, sold unlabelled to shoppers.


"Under Australian Food Standards there are no requirements for restaurant and fast food meals to be labelled. Refined GM vegetable oils are also exempt from labelling though most contain traces of GM DNA and protein that the Food Standard says should be labelled.”


To avoid GM oils, customers ought to ask all fast- or convenience food shops what frying oil they use, and also leave unlabelled bottles of generic vegetable oils on supermarket shelves.


"Gene Ethics is pleased that KFC took the lead, away from palm oil to non-GM canola in response to customer concerns over the environmental and animal impacts of palm oil grown in Indonesia and Malaysia,” Mr Phelps says.


"We hope this will lead to others following suit and making the change to the healthier and safer non-GM options now available," Mr Phelps concludes.


More comment: Bob Phelps 0449 769 066 or 03 9347 4500


Background:


Cooper, Angela Note: Yum! owns KFC. Date: Tue, May 22, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Subject: KFC Canola Oil - Genetically Modified Enquiry


Thank you for your recent enquiry about the canola oil we use at KFC.


KFC makes every effort to source our products from local Australian farmers. For our cooking, we use high oleic canola oil supplied by Cargill, MSM Milling and Integro Foods who source the canola seed exclusively from Australian growers. All our suppliers comply with the requirements of the Australian Oilseed Federation Standard to be considered non-genetically modified.


We have been working closely with our suppliers to ensure our canola oil is not sourced from genetically modified canola seeds while also meeting the demand of our KFC stores nationwide. Our suppliers conduct regular testing to ensure their canola seeds have less than 0.9 per cent adventitious presence of GM material, as per the standards defined by the Australian Oilseeds Federation.


We have been testing the use of high oleic canola oil in a number of our stores and will be expanding the usage of this oil to all our restaurants by the end of May 2012. This has been a long process as we needed to wait for these specially grown crops to come into maturity, and the resultant seeds processed before we could expand the use of the new oil nationwide.


We are committed to providing our customers with fresh, great-tasting food, sourced from trusted suppliers.


Thank you again for your interest and we look forward to welcoming you back to KFC in the near future.

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Fire Sale on GM Canola Seeds (and why the EU wants our GM-free variety)

22 April 2012

Farmers and shoppers reject Monsanto's herbicide tolerant genetically manipulated (GM) canola so emphatically that the company now gives away GM canola seed in a desperate bid for farmers to grow it.


In NSW the Monsanto promises to limit direct farmer losses to only $10/tonne and in WA it offers a one for three freebie to sweeten its deal. 


Read consumer affairs reporter Natasha Bita's report in today's The Australian.


Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps says: "Monsanto's WA advertisement does not even disclose that its offer is for free GM seed, describing it as an offer for FREE BAGS of hybrid canola seed. This misleading description should also interest the ACCC which seeks to prevent deceptive ads.


"The Terms and Conditions of the one for three offer attached to this email include: 'Free bag only applies to the seed component supplied by Canola Breeders and does not include stewardship fees on the seed as applied by Monsanto. Other applicable fees are the responsibility of and payable by the grower on the free bag/s.' See:http://www.cbwa.net.au/CBWA/varieties/pdf/CBEclipseRRpromotion.pdf


"Like Monsanto promises for the performance of its GM seed, this offer is not what it seems and should be refused by all sensible farmers." 


Mr Phelps says grain traders have been paying up to $50/tonne premium in response to strong local and overseas demand for GM-free grain and, for instance, Viterra's quote for April 19 is $30 per tonne discount for GM canola at its silos in Melbourne and Adelaide. Values are similar throughout the country.


"In response to farmers reluctance to buy, Monsanto has offered NSW growers a price support that guarantees they will receive a maximum of $10/tonne less for GM, provided they forward sell their crop and deliver the GM canola harvest to Cargill in Newcastle. We question whether such a price support scheme that encourages farmers to 'fix the price' is legal under ACCC rules against price fixing.


A Birchip Cropping Group report has also found that GM canola seed yields no more than top alternative varieties and has similar oil content.



"Birchip's gross margin analysis {reported in the Australian Farm Journal April 2012, Pp 20 & 21} also found that due to GM's sale price discount, GM seed royalties, brand-name chemicals required to be used, and extra transport costs to distant silos, GM canola is over $150 per hectare less profitable than other canola options," Mr Phelps concludes.


Our information & news in the Oz was followed up widely in the media:


Growers clash over GM canola The West Australian


Farmers lured by golden canola ABC Radio PM program


Mixed results from GM canola trials ABC Radio


GM canola deals with eye to Asia Weekly Times


Price gap for GM canola widens ABC Radio 


CBH not copying GM canola price guarantee ABC Online


East coast GM price gap cut Countryman


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Forum with Nick Xenophon draws record crowd and commitments to keep the ban

29 March 2012

As part of the GM-Free Australia Alliance, facilitated an important forum on why South Australia must maintain the GM ban.

Watch 6-minute presentations from the speakers here

Media release about the forum outcome is here


Download media alert 

ABC TV news story on the forum

AAP wires story widely reported


PANELLISTS: Associate Professor Judy Carman, Health and Environment, Flinders University, Geoffrey Carracher, Spokesperson, Network of Concerned Farmers, Dr Phil Davies, Director, Institute of Health and Environmental Research. Fran Murrell, Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE), Mark Parnell, Greens Member of the SA Legislative Council, Nick Xenophon, Independent Senator for SA, Facilitator:  Bob Phelps, Executive Director, Gene Ethics.



GM-free refreshments kindly donated by the Organic Market and Cafe.


Wine kindly donated by Temple Bruer Organic Wine.
 

Organic marketTemple Bruer

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Global petition launched urging caution on synthetic biology - extreme GM

14 March 2012

Synthetic biology is "extreme genetic engineering". A broad coalition of 111 organisations world-wide has released The Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biology - to govern synthetic organisms and their products, to protect public health and the environment, and to meet economic, social and ethical goals. The coalition calls for a moratorium. SynBio not only cuts and pastes genes but also writes genetic code to create new genes, genetic traits and new life forms from scratch.


Read our media release


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Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement GM risk

14 March 2012

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is being negotiated among 9 countries. It would serve the interests of transnational countries. 


Strong regulation and labelling of new technologies and their products are at stake. We call on the Parties to publish the secret text of their agreements before signing and to keep our sovereign right to strong and precautionary laws, moratoria and labelling.



Download our summary flyer

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GM on the back foot in 2011

17 February 2012

 


Industry front group International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) - http://www.isaaa.org ) fudges the figures in its 2011 annual global report on genetically manipulated (GM) crops. Even on ISAAA's inflated industry-generated data, GM crops were grown on just 3.276% (160m ha) of the world's 4,883,697,600 ha of agricultural land last year (FAO, 2008). [1]

ISAAA has used the same spin and inflated figures it does every year, while ignoring significant setbacks:
for example in 2011 BASF and Monsanto both dropped their research and market programs in Europe because of farmer and shopper resistance, while China rejected GM rice and India banned GM eggplant (brinjal). The two GM traits launched in 1996 - herbicide tolerance, so farmers spray more Roundup weedkiller without harming their crops; and built-in Bt insect toxins that kill some caterpillars - are still the only GM traits available in commercial broadacre crops. 

ISAAA double counts the quarter of all GM crops that contain both herbicide tolerance and Bt insect toxin genes, inflating its figures by calling these 'trait hectares.

ISAAA again claims GM crops will cope better in climate change with abiotic stresses (drought and salt tolerant) and biotic stresses (weed, pest and disease resistant) - (Exec summ, p 22). But these complex traits rely on the interaction of many genes while GM techniques can only be used to cut and paste single genes.

Despite 30 years and $45 billion poured into GM, none of these more complex GM traits exist and the GM industry is stalled. Although conventional breeding is moving faster and producing better results it doesn't offer the profit bonanza of GM crops that can be patented.

Globally, twenty one plant species are now herbicide tolerant superweeds and GM crops hasten this problem as Duke and Powles note: "Most of the documented cases of evolved GR [glyphosate resistant] weeds in the past 6 years have been in GR crops." [2] Insect pest resistance in GM crops is also exploding with resistant corn rootworm in the USA and pink bollworm in Indian cotton wreaking havoc.

In Australia, last week the Glyphosate (Roundup) Sustainability Working Group confirmed resistant brome grass exists, the third new Roundup tolerant weed species found in Australia in the past year. [3] Gene Ethics Director Bob Phelps says, "It defies belief that the scientists on the Working Group are also strong advocates of GM crops for Australia.


"Governments and publicly-funded researchers chase GM pipe-dreams because of ISAAA and industry spin. Instead we need public money spent on new, smarter GM-free farming systems that feed people perpetually without wrecking the planet."

More comment: Bob Phelps 03 9347 4500 or 0449 769 066

[1]
 http://www.fao.org/economic/ess/ess-publications/ess-yearbook/ess-yea rbook2010/yearbook2010-reources/en/



[2] Duke SO and Powles SB, 2008. "Glyphosate: A once-in-a-century herbicide". Pest Management Science 64: 319-325.http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publications.htm?seq_no _115=212997

[3] http://glyphosateresistance.org.au/ and The Land, Thursday Feb 9, 2012, p 28.


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Health Ministers must not leave us 'Eating in the Dark'

11 December 2011

The Food Regulation Ministerial Council met last week to adopt key recommendations of the National Food Labelling review report, Labelling Logic. More than 5,000 submissions to the Blewett labelling review sought labelling as a general principle of all foods made using new technologies: genetic manipulation (GM), irradiation and nanomaterials.


Gene Ethics called on all Health Ministers to adopt the review's recommendations to label all foods with no track record in the human food supply.


"We are outraged that Health Minister Nicola Roxon has rejected the Labelling Logic proposal: that as a general principle all foods or ingredients that have been processed by new technologies (i.e. which trigger pre-market food safety assessments under Food Standard 1.5) be required to be labelled.


We absolutely reject her tepid claim that: "There is already a process in place to ensure that new technologies are safe before entering the food supply" and ask other Ministers to do the same.


"Evidence for the long-term safety of food ingredients made using new industrial techniques and materials is weak or zero. Everyone agrees that safety and health are top priorities yet the Minister trusts a process that relies on best guesses, requires no monitoring or testing, and denies shoppers' right to know hownew foods were produced, processed and packaged," says Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps.


Evidence for the safety of risky new and untried foods is also scarce because, unlike drugs, once tech-foods are approved there is no register where adverse reactions can be notified or assessed.


Gene Ethics urges support for the Precautionary Principle to be applied to all foods and food ingredients where new technologies cast a shadow over safety. We also ask the Ministers to side with Labelling Logic on the need for a: “distinctive labelling protocol with regard to new food technologies” to respond to: "further technological innovations in food production”.


Gene Ethics rallied at the Ministerial meeting in Treasury Place Melbourne to remind the Ministers of everyone's right to know how our food was made and what's in it.

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Cropwatch update in gardening magazine

16 November 2011

Original article supplied to Good Gardening Magazine:


GM Cropwatch
by Jessica Harrison


Introduction


The debate about the genetic manipulation (GM) of plants has been polarised. The many claims and counter claims about this issue can make it hard to tell the truth from corporate spin. Here is a brief outline of some of the contentious issues.


Genetic manipulation is used to cut and paste sections of DNA (the genetic code of life) from one living organism into another. Traditional breeding always occurs between related organisms but GM uses laboratory techniques to transfer genes between unrelated species, in ways that could never occur naturally. GM has unpredictable results because GM techniques are crude and inexact and the complex interactions between genes are poorly understood. For example, the technicians inserting a foreign gene from a bacterium into a plant cell cannot predict if the introduced gene will join the host plant cell, where it may land on the plant’s DNA, or its effects on the functioning of the plant. For thousands of years people saved and shared the best seeds, animal breeds and microbes (for beer, yoghurt and bread). But now GM technologists add genes to these publicly-owned life forms, claim a patent and monopoly ownership of any GM organism produced.


The Australian Office of Gene Technology Regulator granted unrestricted and unconditional commercial licences for herbicide tolerant GM canola in 2003, but state bans stopped the crop being grown for marketing reasons. The bans were lifted in NSW and Victoria in 2008 and in 2010 the Western Australian Government also allowed GM canola. Bans remain in South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT and we want to protect their non-GM growers who are reaping big benefits.


Some claims by GM companies:



 At what cost to farmers?


Roundup tolerant GM canola was just 8% of the Australian canola crop in 2010 but has already imposed extra costs and risks on all growers. Steve Marsh, a National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) certified organic grower near Kojonup in WA, lost his certification and premium markets when GM canola blew over 60% of his farm in November, 2010.


Farmer Protection laws would make GM technology owners and their licensees strictly liable for GM contamination. Farmers like Steve Marsh could recover their losses and extra costs automatically when GM contamination occurred, without having to sue under the common law. But our governments refuse to pass such laws. So Steve must take legal action against his neighbour in a ground-breaking case. Lend your support to his tax-free fighting fund here http://www.nasaa-wa.com.au/NASAA_WA/Home.html


Monsanto and Bayer Cropscience’s GM seed are patented. Farmers who buy GM seed become tenant farmers by signing strict user agreements with the companies. They pay more for GM seed, must use higher-cost branded chemicals, and pay end point royalties on their GM crop delivered to the silo. Saving and re-sowing GM seed is prohibited.


A significant premium of up to $50/tonne (REF3) is now paid for non-GM canola and should continue for at least 5 years. GM canola’s market is limited by tough GM restrictions in our European and Asian export markets.


GM farmers are not required to notify their neighbours of GM crop locations, making it difficult for beekeepers who, when selling to honey companies, must certify their hives have not been within five kilometres of GM canola. As wind, water and bees do not respect fence lines, farmers with guaranteed premium markets for their GM-free canola are also at risk of GM contamination. Organic farmers can lose their certification if GM plants enter their land.


At what cost to shoppers?


Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has approved every application received for GM foods. But Newspoll found a majority of Australians don't want to eat genetically manipulated foods. Over 90% of Australians also want all GM foods to be labelled but our governments will not comply. Food laws allow most refined GM food ingredients - eg: vegetable oils, starches and sugars - to remain unlabelled. Labels mislead because GM ingredients are commonly in processed foods but are unlabelled as such - Australian GM canola oil and cotton products, and imported soy and corn ingredients.


Vote with your wallet to support GM-free. All fresh fruit and vegetables are GM-free. So are all certified organic foods and those labelled GM-free. Also check the Truefood Guide for companies and brands committed to GM-free ingredients: www.truefood.org.au/truefoodguide/.


Why I Care


I grew up on a small island in Moreton Bay, near Brisbane, running barefoot with my sister, making cubbies, swimming, eating fruit from abandoned orchards and vegetables grown by my artist mother. My schoolwork arrived by post and took little time from my day. We had no electricity so we learned self-reliance early. Growing my first broad-bean crop as a teenager, I learnt to enjoy gardening and appreciate the wonders of nature. I remain passionate about social justice and preventing the plunder of our fragile planet by multinational corporations. This motivates me to take action.


While living in the UK from 2000-2003 I joined the dynamic GM-free movement. It grew until the supermarkets competed with each other to rid their shelves of GM products. Farmers and gardeners also succeeded in preventing “trial” GM crops from being grown throughout the country. Back in Australia, I joined GM Cropwatch.


Why GM Cropwatch – a practical approach


GM Cropwatch works with farmers and rural communities to monitor and map GM crops, and to combat the spread of GM canola by monitoring, testing and decontaminating roadsides and farms for GM canola weeds. GM Cropwatch is needed because our governments opened the gates to GM contamination without providing protection for farmers and the environment, and shirk their responsibilities.


I work with farmers who oppose GM and are concerned about its spread. Long hours on country roads checking for GM canola plants are well worth it when GM weeds are identified and permanently removed. Low-cost test kits imported from the USA allow a suspect weed to be verified as GM or GM-free in five minutes.


GM canola was first grown in Victoria in 2008. Following a tip, I watched with a sinking heart as pink and grey galahs feasted on a GM canola crop lying in a paddock. I found wind gusts had lifted sections of the dried canola crop over the fence and 74 metres along the road. (PHOTO 1)  Authorities would not act so I worked with local farmers to clean up the GM plants, preventing regrowth.  (PHOTO 2) Monsanto said government and industry had anticipated canola movement and that wind-blown GM canola was not contamination (REF5). Local farmers continue to check the area for re-growth.


In 2009, a farmer in southern NSW found 19 of the 20 plants she tested along the highway were GM. (REF6) GM Cropwatch volunteers helped remove the infestation. The GM plants were safely bagged and delivered back to Monsanto’s office in Melbourne where the company locked its doors.


GM canola spread is preventable. We must get active to keep the choice to farm and eat GM-free a viable option in our country. GM Cropwatch volunteers will be active again this spring, checking canola plants near GM silos and known sites of previous GM contamination. Join us!


Mapping GM growers and GM-free businesses


Gene Ethics, working for a GM-free future since 1988, hosts Cropwatch’s interactive online maps that document the names and locations of GM growers and GM receival silos. GM-free farms, businesses, councils, retailers and seed suppliers are also listed. These enterprises are using certification, quality assurance and audits to try to exclude all GM products. Join the register at http://www.geneethics.org/maps.


The Gene Ethics network is a citizens public interest advocacy group.


Support our appeal at www.geneethics.org/donate. Pay online, download a payment form, phone Gene Ethics toll-free on 1300 133 868, or email info@geneethics.org.


Contact GM Cropwatch: gmcropwatch@gmail.com


Other GM-free campaign groups: 


Mothers Are Demystifying GE www.madge.org.au 


Greenpeace Australia Pacific - True Food Guides and action http://www.truefood.org.au/


REF1


http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13246


REF2


http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/201002/s2806574.htm


REF3


http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/201105/s3206216.htm


REF4


http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMCANCEP.php


REF5


http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2008/s2430206.htm


REF6


http://www.smh.com.au/environment/gm-canola-found-outside-containment-area-20090924-g4s9.html

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National Food Plan leaflet & rally call for new approach

31 October 2011

Gene Ethics, Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE) and supporters rallied outside a Rural Press Club briefing by Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, calling for the National Food Plan to be democratised. Their leaflet reveals business links, such as the fact that the Australian Food and Grocery Council has listed Monsanto as an associate member.


Among other things, the leaflet reveals:


• Cargill, the world’s largest trader of farm commodities, has bought the


Australian Wheat Board’s commodity business and is set to become


Australia’s largest wheat exporter. Argentina accuses Cargill of largescale


tax evasion and a company part-owned by Cargill has bought all the


available wheat feed in the UK.


• Australian State Governments, universities and research organizations


like CSIRO are partnered with or linked to Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences,


Bayer and many other foreign corporations who set their priorities.


Download the leaflet to read more>>

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Japanese send WA 'please explain' on GM canola

10 October 2011

The Japanese Seikatsu Club Consumers Co-operative Union and the Green Co-op Consumers Co-operative Union import GM-free canola from Western Australia. They wrote to West Australian Premier Colin Barnett, Food and Agriculture Minister Terry Redman and Co-operative Bulk Handlers (CBH) asking for safeguards on GM-free canola supplies but received no response.


These co-operatives are very concerned that non-GM canola may become  unavailable to millions of Japanese consumers after the recent truck spill of genetically manipulated canola seed in GM-free Williams, the  source of their recent imports says Gene Ethics Executive Director  Bob Phelps. At the GM canola spill near Williams, 15 tonnes of GM canola seed spilled from a burning truck onto the roadside where it is now germinating.


A delegation of the co-ops to WA from October 12-18 will seek government and industry action to ensure the continued availability of non-GM canola from WA, the leading Australian canola exporting state.


The letters say: "Our co-operatives have bought non-GM canola, mainly from Western Australia, since 1998 and started buying directly from Williams farmers this year in an attempt to avoid GM. The ability of non-GM farmers to continue producing canola for us is now in danger. We are greatly concerned that this incident could hurt our relationships with CBH and with farmers in Williams." Although Japan does not grow canola, the letter reports it growing wild around ports and roadsides.


Mr Phelps says, "Judging from our experience here, the non-GM properties in the surrounding areas of the accident at Williams will inevitably be contaminated with GM canola if the spilled GM canola seeds are not properly cleaned up."


The Japanese co-operatives ask the WA Government, "Will you re-instate the moratorium on growing GM canola, at least until the parliament passes farmer protection laws to automatically compensate any producer who suffers GM contamination?" The letters also ask for answers to key questions:


* We request a full public accounting of how the incident occurred. What are your plans for investigations to this end?


* What measures do you intend to take to deal with the incident? How long do you intend to implement these measures?


* What measures are you going to take to improve your GM canola segregation programs throughout grain and oilseed supply chains, including GM transportation?


Mr Phelps says, "These co-operatives have 800,000 members in almost every prefecture in Japan. They are committed to GM-free foods and imported over 10,000 tonnes of canola from WA last year because of its GM-free status. More thorough and long term monitoring and cleanup is needed at the Williams spill site as canola seed can continue germinating for up to 16 years," Mr Phelps says. "The WA government and the grains industry lied about segregating GM from non-GM grain and preventing environmental contamination.


"Most farmers are GM-free and reap premiums of up to $50/tonne for their products here and overseas but GM contamination ends their competitive advantage and ability to give shoppers the GM-free foods they want," Mr. Phelps concludes.

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We're suing our food regulator

16 September 2011

In Gene Ethics and the Safe Food Institute vs Food Standards Australia NZ (FSANZ), a writ was filed in the federal court in Melbourne today. The court issued directions today for a trial on November 14, 2011 where the applicants will claim FSANZ did not comply with the law which required it to give proper public notice of its application for a general review of irradiation food standard 1.5.3.


“We believe FSANZ hid its review, that weakens irradiated food labelling and record-keeping, within a Queensland Government application to irradiate persimmons (A1038),” says Gene Ethics Director Bob Phelps. In our view, FSANZ should have published its proposed general review of food irradiation standard 1.5.3, separate from the irradiation of persimmons and advised the public accordingly.


In a letter to Gene Ethics, FSANZ CEO Steve McCutcheon wrote: "I note your concern that the title of the Application, 'Irradiation of Persimmons' might be misleading. FSANZ will consider whether it is appropriate or practical to change procedures for identifying applications in order to provide additional information about an application that has an extended purpose."


“We consider that this is not a trivial matter as FSANZ also now admits that it had previously made its own general revisions to Food Standard 1.5.2 on genetically manipulated foods, within an application made for narrow and specific changes to the GM code,” Mr Phelps says.


FSANZ also reports in its Final Approval of the application that: "... the NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry suggested that for transparency, the amendments should be communicated in the title of the consultation to indicate to stakeholders the additional reforms proposed to the Standard in Application A1038." P20


Now, belatedly: "FSANZ has amended the description of the Application in the Work Plan and for any future references to the description/purpose of this Application." P21 We say that this does not go far enough and we challenge FSANZ to reprocess the applications separately.


“We missed out on making a submission on changes to the irradiation standard and say that FSANZ should have advertised its proposal separately,” says the Safe Food Institute Director, Scott Kinnear.


“Standard 1.5 covers novel foods that have little history of safe use in the human food supply and we are not satisfied that FSANZ uses rigorous science or the precautionary principle in its safety assessments.


“We will argue that the general public were not properly notified of the real import of proposal A1038 and were misled. It’s our view that FSANZ failed to comply with the law by incorrectly labelling the application. We think their omissions amounted to misleading and deceptive conduct.


“We did not know because FSANZ failed to mention the general changes to Standard 1.5.3 that it proposed to make, in its media release, notice to subscribers, Administrative and Risk Assessment Reports, FSANZ News and Notification Circulars and in the Fact Sheet, still on its website.


“It would be a useful win for the public interest if FSANZ agrees that all future applications for general amendments to the Food Standard always give separate, full and proper notice," Mr Kinnear concludes.


Article: food irradiation push faces court challenge

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Food Plan & labelling comments

05 September 2011

Submissions & comments made this month


National Food Plan: comments on Issues Paper


Includes a summary of problems with GM, with reference to contamination and the Steve Marsh test case, consumer rejection and lack of rigorous examination by our food regulator FSANZ.


>> read more


Blewett labelling review - hierarchy framework issues


In response to the Blewett Label Review report recommendations and their implementation, we propose the following solutions to the questions posed in the Ministerial Council’s discussion paper.


>> download file

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GM contamination rampant at canola spill site

15 August 2011

Williams farmer Geoff Reed has seen flocks of parrots feeding on GM canola seed outside his front fence in Williams, WA. The seed, spilled last week, is now germinating on the roadside after rain. Mr Reed has lived on the 400 acre farm all his life.


"My non-GM and no-chemical production systems are threatened by the GM seed, spread by birds and humans," says the sheep and cropping farmer.


He says the authorities and their contractors scooped up the GM canola seed spilled last week but did not get all of it. "A bobcat spread what was left on the roadside with soil and the GM seed is already germinating along at least 50 metres of road at my fence line," he reports.


"Me and my neighbours wanted to stay GM-free but our worst nightmare is now outside our front gates. We want real action not promises. What practical steps will Redman, the state government, CBH and our Shire council take to protect my land and income?


"All the GM canola seed and soil on the roadside must be removed in the next two weeks to prevent more contamination when the seed germinates. Parrots have been busy spreading it too so it may already be on our farms."


Gene Ethics director, Bob Phelps says this is a long term problem as the Gene Technology Regulator confirms that GM canola seed can germinate for up to sixteen years. GM trial sites grown in 1998 are still being monitored and decontaminated.


"Minister Redman is dosing at the wheel and Monsanto, who owns the seed is missing in action.


"We have also had confirmation today of GM canola weeds along a major NSW road," Mr Phelps concludes.


Download our new leaflet: GM canola is a scam

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Truck fire spills GM canola at Williams, WA

11 August 2011

Several tonnes of genetically manipulated (GM) canola were spilled at Williams WA, on Tuesday night. A fire split the truck trailer and GM canola seed spilled along the roadway and verges.


The Albany Highway for several kilometers needs quarantining, cleanup and monitoring for at least the next decade but the highway was reopened at 5am yesterday morning, explains Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps.


"No effective cleanup could have been done in the dark and GM canola contamination is now likely over large areas from Perth to Albany.


"GM canola seed will be picked up and spread by other vehicles, to germinate and contaminate the surrounding countryside for up to 16 years according to Gene Technology Regulator reports.


"The Tasmanian government is still monitoring and cleaning up GM contamination at 50 sites where GM canola trials were planted in 1998."


Williams grain grower Janette Liddelow is calling on the WA Government and Agriculture Minister Terry Redman to immediately implement emergency spillage procedures including stringent quarantine, cleanup and long-term monitoring.


"The GM giant Monsanto owns the GM canola seed, so it must accept responsibility for this contamination and bear the costs of thorough, long-term remediation," she says.


"This GM canola spill is our worst nightmare come true, after only one season of the crop being grown in WA.


"A majority of farmers around Williams backed GM-free farming and our Shire Council asked the state government not to lift the ban on GM canola, but they ignored us.


"A dozen growers who farm 40,000 hectares here in this area asked the state government to remove the exemption from the law that allows GM canola to be grown here but Agriculture Minister Redman refused our request.


"We wanted our district declared a GM-free zone but he refused, on the grounds that it was too costly, time consuming and complicated to administer.


"And again, we also recently asked to be put on the new Sensitive Sites Register that the Agriculture Department established as a sop to widespread grower demands for the protection of non-GM canola production and our premiums of up to $50/tonne being paid for GM-free product.


"We urgently need Farmer Protection laws, paid for by a levy on GM seed sales, that would provide a fund to automatically pay the extra costs and losses that GM canola has brought to our farming communites," Ms Liddelow concludes.

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National Food Plan submissions extended but public input sidelined

08 August 2011

We thank Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig for an extension on the National Food Plan submission deadline. Comments can now be lodged by September 2. However, we are greatly disappointed that the Agriculture Minister has broken Gillard Government promises of transparency, fairness and public participation in development of the National Food Plan.


The discussion paper neglects any public processes in food policy issues, saying only: 'The government ... intends drawing upon ideas and suggestions to develop policy options for a national food plan, but not formally responding to specific submissions or issues.' This one-way process stifles debate, cherry-picks acceptable answers and will not deliver robust policies.


Gene Ethics has sought open public forums to discuss the sustainable farming and food production systems based on healthy soils that are needed to feed, house and clothe everyone well, in perpetuity. Instead, a program of invitation-only roundtable meetings run by CoxInall is scheduled, with just 15 invitees at each. Requests to participate, from a wide variety of public interest advocacy groups including Gene Ethics, have been refused.


The National Food Policy Advisory Working Group (see below), answering to the Minister, is composed of entrenched and powerful commercial interests which will not form the visionary plans for our food production and supply systems needed to feed our grandchildren and their children.


National Food Policy Working Group

A National Food Policy Working Group has been established as a forum for active communication between the food industry and government to foster a common understanding of the industry's priorities, challenges and future outlook across the supply chain. The National Food Policy working group is one consultative mechanism to assist in developing the national food plan.

Members of the National Food Policy Working Group

    * Michael Luscombe - Managing Director and CEO Woolworths
    * Michael Byrne - CEO Linfox Logistics
    * Dr Alastair Robertson - Deputy Chief Executive of CSIRO
    * Terry O'Brien - Managing Director Simplot Australia
    * Simone Tully - Owner of OBE Organics
    * Jock Laurie - President National Farmers' Federation
    * Janine Allis - CEO Boost Juice
    * Kate Carnell - CEO Australian Food and Grocery Council
    * Malcolm Jackman - CEO Elders Ltd
    * Nick Stace - CEO Choice (Australian Consumers Association)
    * Alison Watkins - Managing Director and CEO Graincorp
    * Jeff Lawrence - ACTU Secretary
    * Dr Peter Williams - Associate Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Wollongong


Take action

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Steve Marsh launches test case

28 July 2011

Decertified organic grower Steve Marsh has retained  Slater & Gordon to launch the Australian test case to try to regain his livelihood after GM canola contaminated his farm.


Steve's lawyer will issue a writ in the WA Supreme Court.


Steve initially used our test kits to confirm the GM contamination. The WA Govt confirmed the results on Christmas Eve.


Gene Ethics Director, Bob Phelps says, "Steve Marsh's case shows the urgent need for the government to pass farmer and supply chain protection laws.


"These laws would make the owners and licensees of GM crops strictly liable for GM contamination and damage.


"Farmers like Steve would be automatically paid out from a pool of funds levied on the sale of GM seed.


"GM crops were supposed to deliver choice to farmers but GM-free farmers may lose their $50/tonne premium for being GM-free."


Watch the initial TV news story on the contamination here


Watch the 7.30 Report story, GM Test Case


Media release on the court action is below


The Safe Food Foundation

For immediate release: 28 July 2011

WA organic farmer Steve Marsh announces retention of Slater & Gordon Lawyers, and fundraising partnership with The Safe Food Foundation, in legal case against neighbouring GM farmer

Steve Marsh, an organic farmer from Kojonup, Western Australia, whose farm was contaminated by genetically modified (GM) canola in late 2010 leading to the loss of his organic certification by the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), today announced he has retained Slater & Gordon Lawyers with the intention to lodge a writ against the GM farmer in the WA Supreme Court to fight for compensation and damages.

Scott Kinnear, long standing organic industry representative and director of The Safe Food Foundation, today announced that the foundation would assist Steve Marsh in partnership with Friends of the Earth Australia.

“Steve has been deluged with offers of help since news of his story broke. The Safe Food Foundation has taken on the coordination of fundraising as a major project in support of Steve and the right of farmers everywhere to grow GM-free foods; which ultimately equals consumers’ right to buy and eat GM-free foods and to avoid potentially dangerous toxic GM foods” said Kinnear. 

“There are legitimate concerns, derived from a considerable body of developing research, that GM foods are toxic. A Canadian scientific study published in 2011 and testing the blood of 69 women, found that a GM protein based pesticide toxin was circulating in their bloodstream. Out of these women, 30 were pregnant and 93% of those had the GMO pesticide toxin in their blood. Alarmingly, tests on the umbilical cords of those women after birth established that 80% had the GM pesticide toxin circulating into their babies and out of the 39 non-pregnant women, 69% had the GM pesticide toxin in their blood. [1]

“The GMO industry had previously told food regulators that the GM pesticide toxin would be broken down during digestion. These findings are alarming, and we believe urgent independent research should be commissioned immediately funded by governments to establish the impact on adult, foetal and child health” said Kinnear

Another recently published paper suggests that roundup may be implicated in causing birth defects and that regulators have been aware of this for some time [2]. Roundup ready GM crops are resistant to the application of Roundup which is used on the crops to control weeds, causing Roundup residues to enter our food chain.

“As an original member of the Gene Technology Grains Committee (GTGC) 10 years ago, I’ve been privy to developments in GM, and aware of the potential for GM-contamination. The organic industry has always argued that the protocols around GM that we’re dealing with today would fail. At the GTGC meetings I made representations on behalf of the organic industry to say that the buffer zones of five metres were grossly inadequate. As the founding Chair of the Organic Federation of Australia, in 2000 I commissioned legal advice from Slater & Gordon on the ramifications of an organic farmer being contaminated and losing certification. In 2010, our worst fears came true with Steve Marsh” said Kinnear.

“The Safe Food Foundation is so concerned about GM contamination of organic and non-GM conventionally produced foods that we are making an offer to supply GM test kits to any grain farmer in Australia who is concerned about contamination of their past or future crops. We believe that Steve Marsh’s case is the tip of the iceberg and that unless stopped, Australia will follow Canada’s dangerous lead, where there is virtually no GM-free canola available.”

Steve Marsh said “I am pleased and relieved that the Safe Food Foundation is fundraising to help my cause and making it possible for me to take legal action through Slater & Gordon Lawyers. I just hope my case helps other farmers out there because if this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I grow food that consumers want to eat and I value their concerns about GM. I just want to be able to meet demand for GM-free, high quality foods.”

For more information:

Bella Gubay, Media Liaison, The Safe Food Foundation
Tel: 0390055860 / Email: media@safefoodfoundation.org
Website: www.safefoodfoundation.org

Scott Kinnear, Director, The Safe Food Foundation
Tel: 0419881729 / Email: scott@safefoodfoundation.org
Website: www.safefoodfoundation.org

Cited studies:

[1] Aris, A. & LeBlanc, S. (2011) Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. ReprodToxicol

[2] Antoniou, M et al. (2011) Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark? Earth Open Source


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GM wheat protests gain momentum

15 July 2011

GM wheat could be commercially grown in Australia - the first country in the world - by 2015 - don't be lulled into thinking we have 7-10 years away before any action is necessary. GM wheat has been big in the media this month.


Concerned mothers rallied outside Prime Minister Julia Gillard's office to express their opposition to the 1300-odd GM wheat trials across Australia. The rally came after Greenpeace took whippersnippers to a CSIRO GM wheat trial in Canberra, to prevent contamination of our food chain and environment.


Watch the Landline video on the wheat trial action


Hear what Gene Ethics and MADGE have to say, including on GM wheat trials and the GM canola contamination of organic grower Steve Marsh's land

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Support our Annual Appeal

16 June 2011

Please support us in our financial year annual appeal - we rely 100% on you.


We have achieved some fantastic wins, thanks to your support.


Read our 2010-2011 report


Download donation form


Or phone us: 1300 133 868 (local call)


Margaret Fulton - Australian Living National Treasure & chef:
“I feel that it’s getting even more disconcerting, knowing that GM foods are being produced around the world and we often don’t know if they’re in the food we’re eating."


Peter Cundall - gardener & TV personality:
"Gene Ethics is to be congratulated for taking such a leading role in creating awareness of the dangers of genetic modification and supporting the world-wide campaign against GM."


Read more>>


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Here's to a GM-free future!

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Submissions needed to review of Gene Technology Act

02 June 2011

Submissions due by 5pm Monday, 20 June 2011 or let us know if you want to be a signatory to our submission.


For information on the review process, terms of reference and submission requirements and instructions, please refer to the GTMC website.


The Gene Technology Ministerial Council (GTMC) is undertaking the review of the Gene Technology Act 2000 (the GT Act) in accordance with the intergovernmental Gene Technology Agreement.  The last review was conducted in 2006.  


Read what we told the review in 2005 (which was ignored) and what the GTMC decided here.

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Grain traders snub GM canola

26 May 2011

European and Australian demand for GM-free grain is so strong that leading grain traders Elders-Toepfer and Glencore Grain have revealed they refuse to buy any genetically manipulated (GM) canola this year. And traders that buy GM will only pay up to $45/tonne less than for non-GM grain.


This market is a bonanza for the majority of Australian grain growers who wisely stayed with non-GM canola varieties. Ninety five per cent of Western Australia's canola was sold to Europe last year and strong demand is expected to continue, but only for non-GM - European shoppers have zero tolerance for GM canola.


Western Australia's Agriculture Minister Terry Redman has lifted the ban on GM canola for the first time, against the wishes of most farmers and shoppers. Unless he reimposes the GM ban, GM contamination and loss of our GM-free markets is inevitable.


Already one organic grower with GM canola contamination has been decertified. All non-GM growers and supply chains are at risk if Minister Redman persists with his crazy commitment to GM at any cost.


The law requires Minister Redman to protect markets for all farmers, not only those he has backed to plant GM varieties, without any rules or regulations. He has failed miserbaly and should resign. We gained favoured access to the European canola market in 1999 when Canada began to grow GM but now we are set to lose our competitive advantage if the Minister refuses to act.


GM canola segregation has failed everywhere it has been tried. After only one year of commercial GM canola in WA there is still time to become GM-free again, as the GM share of the crop was just 8%.


South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and Northern Territory have retained their GM-free policies and other states should again ban polluting GM canola, for marketing reasons.


"It's insane to grow a GM crop that no-one in their right mind wants to eat," concludes Gene Ethics Director Bob Phelps.

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GM-free successes in Western Australia

26 May 2011

Gene Ethics played a key role in successful GM-free Australia Alliance meetings in Western Australia recently, to plan GM-free strategies for the coming year and to support decertified organic grower Steve Marsh. We also held strategic meetings with politicians, farm groups and the public grain breeder InterGrain, now 20% owned by Monsanto.


 


Steve Marsh's farm is contaminated by GM canola and his case will be settled in court. Our team organised forums on food and farmer protection in rural Williams and Perth which both attracted enthusiastic overflow crowds which passed motions opposing GM canola contamination on farms and in food. They supported Steve and gave generously to his support fund.


 


The day after the Perth forum, held in Premier Barnett's electorate, he distanced himself and his government in Parliament from GM wheat research, though the WA Government has invested heavily in GM wheat and allowed field trials during its GM ban. Despite 25 years of research, the GM industry has failed to produce the drought tolerant crops that it still falsely promises to farmers. It is these false hopes that are driving many to back dud GM technology. Read more at:


http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/regional/countryman/a/-/news/9061235/binned-premier-sidelines-gm-wheat/ and http://www.abc.net.au/rural/wa/content/2011/03/s3171805.htm.


Hear Premier Barnett answer the question on GM wheat here: http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rural/wa/countryhour/click_here_m1973587.mp3

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GM crops and foods: promises, profits and politics

15 April 2011

The Autumn 2011 issue of the Farm Policy Journal was entitled "Can agriculture manage a genetically modified future". Bob Phelps' paper begins: "The cruelest lie about Genetically Manipulated (GM) crops and foods is that they can 'feed the world'. GM companies use empty promises of bountiful, designer foods to foist GM onto reluctant governments, farmers and shoppers.


"The UN says there is now enough food to feed everyone but our social priorities and conflicts allow a billion people to starve. GM technology cannot right this injustice, but false promises take scarce resources away from finding durable solutions to feeding, housing and clothing us all."


Read more by downloading the attached document. The whole journal and other papers can also be purchased here.


Download article>>

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$50 premium for non-GM canola confirmed

08 March 2011

A surge in market premiums for non-GM canola has left many wondering why West Australian Agriculture Minister Terry Redman encourages farmers to plant GM canola.


Major grain purchaser Co-operative Bulking Handling (CBH) has confirmed that strong demand for non-GM canola has resulted in premiums of $50/tonne over the price for GM canola. The co-operative's March 3 Grain Weekly says: "By far and away the biggest development this marketing season has been the increased demand for Australian non-GM sustainable canola."


The European Union is the strongest buyer at a $50/tonne premium and over 90% of last seasons West Australian canola crop went to Europe as only 8% of the crop was GM.


The GM regulatory system requires the Government to back this bonanza for WA growers but it is failing totally to do so.  There is no market demand for GM crops but markets for conventional and organic non-GM canola and other grains are strong and growing. GM is a ripoff as the seed costs more, costly branded Roundup herbicide must be used, and growers pay an end point royalty on their GM harvest when delivered to the silo.


South Australia remains GM-free and Kangaroo Island Pure Grain http://www.kipuregrain.com/ is reaping the benefits of selling GM-free canola, honey and other grains at premium prices under guaranteed long term contracts.


CBH also confirms: "we expect a premium (for GM-free) to be maintained."


Gene Ethics is calling on all state governments to meet their obligations to protect the livelihoods and markets of Australian farmers, by reimposing the bans on GM canola where they have been discontinued.


Greenpeace says increased commercial links between the West Australian Government and the GM industry are to blame for the government's extreme misjudgement in promoting GM crops to farmers. (2)


"Agriculture Minister Terry Redman's position on GM is fiscally irresponsible and also leads to questions whether government/industry links are clouding his judgement," says Greenpeace Food and Agriculture campaigner, Laura Kelly.


She says Minister Redman encouraged farmers to grow GM canola when he lifted the ban on GM canola in March 2010 and the WA Department of Agriculture fact-sheet reassured farmers that: "While there are clients who specify "non-GM" or "GM-free" canola, the demand is small, declining, and usually does not offer a significant premium." (1)



(1) http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/objtwr/imported_assets/content/fcp/gmcrops/misconceptionsjan2010-web.pdf
(2) http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/30102.html

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Steve Marsh to speak at Perth public forum this month

07 March 2011

Come and add your support to the rights of Australians to choose GM-free and hear decertified organic grower Steve Marsh speak in Perth publicly for the first time about his impending David and Goliath battle after GM contaminated his farm.


The GM-free Australia Alliance is converging on Western Australia and is organising this free public forum facilitated by Gene Ethics' Bob Phelps. Panelists: environmental scientist Josh Byrne, Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray MLA, Greens spokesperson on GMOs the Hon. Lynn MacLaren MLC, Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE) Australian co-founder Frances Murrell, Doctors for the Environment's Dr George Crisp and  the Network of Concerned Farmers WA spokesperson Julie Newman.


Event details here.


You can also RSVP to the event on Facebook.


Steve Marsh update:
ABC Radio has set up a page with updated interviews dedicated to Steve's plight here. You are invited to share your views.


GetUp is taking votes on campaigns to focus on and Steve Marsh is high on the agenda. Please vote here - it only takes a few clicks.


You can donate to the Steve Marsh fighting fund here

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Labelling report betrays shoppers

02 February 2011

The national food labeling review report* issued on Friday ignores public demand for full labelling of all foods made using Genetic Manipulation (GM) techniques. Of 6,000 individual submissions to the inquiry, more than 5,000 backed: "comprehensive disclosure of information on food labels about the use of genetically modified foods, foods produced using nanotechnology and the declaration of additives and allergens on food labels". Report, P171.


The Blewett panel scorns public demands for honesty and fairness in GM labeling by backing the status quo. Australians were first asked in 1994 about GM food labels and every survey since then finds that over 90% want all GM-derived foods to be fully labeled.


Despite this, in recommendation 29 they say: 'only foods or ingredients that have altered characteristics or contain detectable novel DNA or protein be required to declare the presence of genetically modified material on the label'.


All GM vegetable oils, starches and sugars, as well as the eggs, meat and milk from animals fed GM feed and restaurant or takeway meals, are all exempt from any GM labelling.


And a 1% threshold for 'adventitious' (accidental) GM contamination is also allowed. This allows many products to bypass the labeling law, selling processed foods that routinely (not occasionally) contain GM soy, corn, canola and cotton, and their derivatives.


So Gene Ethics supports the positive recommendation 30: for governments to monitor compliance with the 1% threshold provisions but this should occur continually, not only when a contamination event is discovered.


If GM contamination were found the panel recommends follow up testing but until now no governments (except NSW) have fulfilled their duty to test processed foods for GM presence.


Some food processors appear to routinely sell unlabelled products (S26 infant formula for example) that include GM vegetable oils, starches or sugars containing foreign DNA and protein not removed by the refining processes.


If adopted and fully implemented, we hope this proposal would make it more difficult for industry to process and sell GM-contaminated foods without labeling them GM.


The panel's call to improve the resources and analytical skills necessary for GM testing is also welcome but does not redress the basic flaws in the labelling standard.


Gene Ethics also supports their call to: 'develop as a matter of urgency a standard for regulating the presence of nanotechnology in the food production chain' but they should also have proposed an immediate ban on nanomaterials in food and food packaging while the policy is developed.


The requirement to label irradiated foods should continue and not be reviewed, as shoppers are entitled to know which foods are sterilised or disinfected with radiation.


* Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy http://www.foodlabellingreview.gov.au/internet/foodlabelling/publishing.nsf/content/labelling-logic


Notes:


Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy
Recommendations on New Technologies Pp 87-94


Recommendation 28: That as a general principle all foods or ingredients that have been processed by new technologies (i.e., all technologies that trigger pre-market food safety assessments) be required to be labelled for 30 years from the time of their introduction into the human food chain; the application of this principle to be based on scientific evidence of direct impact on, or modification of, the food/ingredient to be consumed. At the expiry of that period the mandatory labelling should be reviewed.


Recommendation 29: That only foods or ingredients that have altered characteristics or contain detectable novel DNA or protein be required to declare the presence of genetically modified material on the label.


Recommendation 30: That any detection of an adventitious genetically modified event be followed by a period of monitoring and testing of that food or ingredient.


Recommendation 31: That foods or ingredients with flavours containing detectable novel DNA or protein not be exempt from the requirements to declare the presence of genetically modified material on the label.


Recommendation 32: That foods or ingredients that have been genetically modified and would require declaration if labelled be declared on menu/menu boards or in close proximity to the food display or menu in chain food service outlets and on vending machines.


Recommendation 33: That governments ensure effective monitoring of labelling requirements in the Food Standards Code relating to genetically modified foods or ingredients through support for sufficient Australian and New Zealand laboratories, observing world best practice protocols, and with the necessary resources and analytical skills.


Recommendation 34: That the requirement for mandatory labelling of irradiated food be reviewed.


Recommendation 35: That Food Standards Australia New Zealand and other relevant bodies develop as a matter of urgency a standard for regulating the presence of nanotechnology in the food production chain, consistent with the recommendations in this Report relating to new technologies.

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WA Government hides GM canola test results

23 December 2010

West Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh is in limbo, awaiting state government test results and facing genetic manipulation giant Monsanto's legal wrath. Steve Marsh's organic farm has been decertified over GM canola contamination from a neighbour's farm.


Monsanto revealed today that it would give legal support to the GM grower if Mr Marsh sought redress for his losses through the courts.


For years Gene Ethics has called for Farmer Protection laws because GM contamination was inevitable once the Gene Technology Regulator issued unrestricted and unconditional commercial licences. And just this week, the regulator has licensed Monsanto trials of GM canola designed to survive even more repeat sprayings of Roundup herbicide. This will add to the burden of unmanageable herbicide tolerant weeds that already cost Australian land managers over $4 billion per year.


The West Australian Government sampled the GM canola contaminating more than 60% of Steve Marsh's land weeks ago but Agriculture Minister Terry Redman is keeping the test results secret.


Yet Steve's own strip tests found GM canola on his land and last week his organic certifier NASAA [National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia] confirmed GM and suspended his certification for at least a year. Steve has lost the premiums that come from marketing his organic produce that has zero tolerance for anything GM, as Organic Standard AS6000 requires.


That's typical of how the Minister treats farmers. Minister Redman has not kept one promise on GM canola segregation and handling, despite claiming 'GM and non-GM canola can be segregated and marketed separately,' when he lifted the GM ban this year. He also welshed on his promise to publish the sites of GM canola farms so that non-GM growers could take evasive action.


Monsanto's Tony May was present when Redman lifted the GM canola ban and he also sold 20% of the state's public plant breeding company InterGrain to Monsanto for a song. They immediately announced that GM wheat is their joint research priority.


Minister Redman and other governments nationwide have a responsibility to pass Farmer Protection laws early in 2011 to compensate the majority of farmers, who are non-GM, who will be GM contaminated.


Minister Redman must give Steve Marsh the Christmas present he needs, by announcing the GM test results today and promising a Farmer Protection law. He must give all farmers the non-GM crop choices that he promised, without economic loss or decertification from GM canola contamination.


Background and media reports here

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New year appeal - please donate

18 December 2010

Dear GM-free supporter,


As we all prepare to celebrate the holiday season, Australian farmers are working hard to keep healthy GM-free foods on our tables. Many are fighting the GM giants and so is Gene Ethics, by making sure their stories are in the spotlight.


Steve Marsh, a WA organic grower, says: "GM canola can't be contained. We rely on the premium for GM-free organic food and we need Farmer Protection laws. We want compensation for lost premiums and cancelled certification."


Kevin Willmott, a Victorian farmer who grew GM canola this year, says: "I've got 100 tonnes of GM canola that germinated in the pods when it was still green. GM is the problem because my conventional canola was fine. We'll never grow GM again."


Gene Ethics is supporting these farmers by getting their stories into the media, creating action plans with organic certifiers, and lobbying governments for Farmer Protection laws.

Your New Year gift to Gene Ethics will help ensure that all of us - farmers and shoppers - can celebrate a happy, healthy, GM-free New Year.


Please donate here now:


http://www.geneethics.org/donate


or print, fill out and post our donation form.


We depend 100% on your support.


Why donate?


Monsanto wants to make Australia the first country to develop and grow GM wheat - our daily bread and pasta. It recently acquired 20% of WA's public breeding program for this purpose. Gene Ethics is working hard to stop industry and government research, development and promotion of GM crops and animals, particularly wheat. Your generous financial support will help to oppose the GM companies and their backers that use shaky science to sell shonky products.


Please donate to Gene Ethics now.


With your support, Gene Ethics will continue to craft influential policy and actions, to back claims for GM-free foods and ecological agriculture systems. Intensive chemical/industrial farming depends on oil and phosphates that are running out. We propose sustainable solutions for healthy environments and local food supplies in the era of climate change to replace a failing system.


Please visit: http://www.geneethics.org/donate


Thank you to everyone who has supported Gene Ethics this year.


Peace and joy to you and your family during the summer and in 2011.


Yours sincerely,
 
Bob Phelps
Executive Director


PS: Our 24th year will be the most challenging yet and we rely on your generosity to continue.


You can read more about Steve's fight and get media updates here

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GM contaminates organic farm

10 December 2010

A West Australian organic farmer has found genetically manipulated (GM) canola seeds contaminating nearly two thirds of his arable land. Australian organic standards mandate zero tolerance for any GM so he will consider suing for financial loss, the first case of its kind in Australia.


Steve Marsh says he used test strips to identify the seeds of GM canola which have blown more than 1.5 km inside his boundary and contaminated about 220 hectares. He believes the seed may have blown in after a neighbouring GM canola farmer swathed the crop to prepare for harvest and the severed dry stalks and seeds became airborne.


Mr Marsh's organic certifiers, the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) is conducting an official investigation.


The farmer says he fears for his livelihood because he relies on the premium that comes with selling guaranteed GM-free organic food, in Australia and in overseas markets.


“Governments that allow GM canola to be grown must ensure whatever a farmer does within their boundary does not impact on neighbouring farms. But clearly, the technology can’t be contained," he says.


In a letter to Mr Marsh, WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman recently wrote: ‘... zero per cent thresholds are unrealistic in biological systems’. Yet on March 11 this year, when announcing an end to the GM canola ban, Redman had said: 'The trials proved GM and non-GM canola can be segregated and marketed separately'.


Now that the government allowed GM to be grown here, laws must be enacted to protect the majority of farmers want to stay GM-free. Farmers must be compensated for any loss of premiums and certification that result from GM contamination.


Canola has been found to sprout for up to sixteen years, according to the Office of Gene Technology Regulator which licensed the crop.


Media coverage


Western Australia records country's first GM contamination- International Business Times 27 Dec


Legal action considered over GM contamination ABC Radio 25 Dec


GM contamination of organic crop confirmed Perth Now 24 Dec


New measures to restrict GM crop contamination ABC Radio 24 Dec


Non-GM farm contaminated by GM canola AAP story on SMH online 24 Dec


GM strain blow organic status away The Australian 23 Dec


Possible GM contamination of WA crop could be national first ABC Radio AM 18 Dec


First farmer loses crop to GM WA Business News 16 Dec


GM contamination fear The Land 16 Dec


GM contamination claims could hurt organic accreditation ABC Radio WA Country Hour 16 Dec


Listen to interviews including with Steve Marsh here


GM buffer zone breached says WA farmer Fairfax rural newspapers

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Food Labelling laws must be stronger, now

07 December 2010

The Food Regulation Ministerial Council received the Blewett report on national Food Labelling Law and Policy recently but did not release it. Gene Ethics calls for immediate publication and says a delay of many months is unacceptable.


The Government should release the Blewett report to the community now so its findings are subject to further public discussion and comment before COAG presents us with a done deal.


We suspect shoppers will still be denied the information on food labels that is needed for real choice. The review was promised at the 2007 election and only begun in October 2009. Thousands of people submitted written comments to the review panel and hundreds attended the public hearings.


Since 1994, when public opinion was first tested, over 90% of Australians have backed full GM labelling but most GM foods remain exempt on the spurious grounds that they are refined so pose no hazard. Experimental animals and their offspring are harmed by some varieties of GM foods approved for sale in Australia.


If GM and cheap imported foods offered real benefits, then food processing and retail industries should willingly back open and honest labelling of all their processed foods.

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Use research to drought-proof our farms and protect our food security - we speak at Govt inquiry

26 November 2010

Bob Phelps – Gene Ethics Oral Evidence to Productivity Commission Hearing 12/11/10 Melbourne On Rural Research and Development Corporations


http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/103750/20101112-melbourne.pdf


MR WEICKHARDT: We're now going to resume the hearings. Our first participants after that break are Gene Ethics. In a moment I'll ask you to introduce yourself in the capacity in which you're appearing. But can I say - I have read your submission - a large chunk of your submission to the previous inquiry really is not relevant to our terms of reference. So I'd like you to confine your remarks to things that are directly relevant to our terms of reference. I mean, we could have a long and interesting discussion about genetic modifications, but that's not why we're here. Therefore I want you to confine your remarks, if you can, to the matters subject to this inquiry. So if you could introduce yourself, please.


MR PHELPS (GE): Bob Phelps, executive director, Gene Ethics.


MR WEICKHARDT: Thank you.


MR PHELPS (GE): I appreciate your point, commissioner, but I think that part of your scope is what research and development and rural Australia should look like, whether it should be broad or narrow and who should do the work. So while I'll try to confine my remarks, I think there are some examples from the commitment of governments and research and  development organisations to the genetic manipulation of crops and foods that are relevant as examples.


MR WEICKHARDT: Can I just correct you? Let's call it "gene modification," please, not "manipulation".


MR PHELPS (GE): Biotechnology Industry Organisation in the USA, of which our premier is a member, calls it genetic manipulation. Sorry to differ with you, but Monsanto has taken the view that we should call it "modification" because they want to argue that it's just an extension of traditional breeding, and it's a public relations term. It's not very descriptive of what really happens.


Your inquiry I think is about trying to scope out what rural research and  development really means and who should do it, and we certainly agree that the long-term view of Australia's food future is crucially important. So our research and development should be a matter for the community as a whole. I draw to your attention Bob Katter's remarks in this week's Weekly Times (expressing his concern about the sale of Australian rural assets to foreign interests). They're relevant because InterGrain, the Western Australian public breeder, 20 per cent of that, which was previously owned exclusively by one of the RDCs, Grains Research and Development Corporation, and the WA government, is now 20 per cent owned by Monsanto. So that sell-off of public resources does influence research and development priorities, and I think should be within your scope.


We agree with you that it appears that decisions concerning individual programs are often made without sufficient regard to what the policy framework as a whole is intended to achieve. Taking that long-term and very broad view is really what I'd like to talk about today and how we arrive at the Australian public getting the benefits it wants from the very substantial federal government and state government investments in research and development. We have said in our submission, but I'll just quickly reiterate again, that healthy economies are based on healthy rural ecologies and communities and they're not produced in corporate laboratories.


Research and development should be simply complementary to valuing rural communities' provision of services, whether it's food and fibre production or looking after our environment, the fragile Australian environment, which is substantially covered by farming activities and rural and regional communities. It's claimed that these are non productivity related, but actually the environment, its assets, water and land are the basis of those productive activities, and without them our rural research and development would be irrelevant. So I don't think we can just focus on yield, that we can just focus on productivity and ignore that, we need to also nurture those resources on which that productivity and those yields are based. I think that research and development has to really give quite a bit of its attention and quite a substantial amount of its resources to a focus on how we make farmers into wonderful land managers, how we reward them for looking after that asset base, for future generations as well as this one. It's really crucially important that that be done. In your discussion about setting up Rural Research Australia to replace CSIRO Land and Water you say that it should encompass energy use as well as land and water matters. But I think too that rural communities, the people who live in rural and regional Australia and how those assets are managed is also crucially important and that should be part of the research and development picture as well.


We are very concerned that you mention Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, RIRDC. When we look at what RIRDC does, it's a very broad suite of community-related enterprises and concerns, and, if RRA is established, while some of the activities of RIRDC might be transferred across, we are absolutely adamant that RIRDC not go the way of CSIRO Land and Water, that it does survive and that it has a legitimate role and a very important role to play.


It's all very well for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to say, "Well, 80 per cent of our production is done by 20 per cent of the farmers and those are the ones that we cater for and they are the ones that we look to, but the fact of the matter is that most Australians are directly fed not by the production of commodities for export but by that 80 per cent of farmers who produce good, fresh, clean, green food for consumption within Australia and they need research and development resources as well. At the moment, in our view, they are grossly under-catered for.


The development of the organic industry, for instance, needs to be a priority. Governments make various promises and noises about that, but they haven't so far delivered on seeing how we can make food which is not harnessed to the agribusiness industrial machine, the high input agriculture which is now going to be limited by the end of oil, the end of phosphates, and global climate change. Those constraints need to be dealt with and we need to be looking at organic and beyond organic to see how future generations of Australians are actually going to be fed, housed and clothed from the Australian environment. I think that's the broad challenge and the long-term challenge.


We just made a submission - which I have given you a copy of - to the Grains Research and Development Corporation on their allocation of research, development and extension resources, and the development of these services for farmers and land managers to permanently and sustainably cope with adapting to and mitigating the effects of global climate change and resource depletion issues: oil, phosphates; synthetic chemicals, herbicides and pesticides, have got astronomically expensive and soon may not even be available; farm fuels as oil runs out will become more expensive and it will also be a challenge to run farms, certainly not in the way they are at the moment.


So we need to be researching and developing a transition to a different kind of agriculture for Australia and we need to begin that right now. In your thinking about this it would be good if you could bring that into the equation. One of the things in our submission to the Grains Research and Development Corporation concerned the knowledge that already exists. Farmers, particularly elderly farmers - and most of them are over 50 or 60 - are a repository of an enormous amount of information which is not readily available to anybody else.


The National Broadband Network I think should be part of your thinking as well, about how information is provided, not only from the official research and development side, which will feed into that and make available to farmers online, though NBN, information, but also be a way of gathering the collective knowledge and wisdom of the Australian rural and regional communities and making that available, particularly on a regional basis, to other growers and producers, people who are value-adding the produce that's actually grown. This is going to be a lot better than trying to continue producing mass commodities primarily for export. It's grand that we mine Australian soils to feed 60 million people by sending vast quantities of unprocessed commodities overseas, but it's a bit like mining out minerals - you know, it has got a limited life, it's a limited resource - and we are going to be much better off thinking strategically about food sovereignty for Australians for the future as well. We need real solutions for family farmers, land managers and other producers, not false promises. So we agree with you that it appears likely that the government's very significant funding contribution has induced only a modest overall level of genuinely additional research. I think that is really true.


The research and development that farmers and land managers could actually do needs to be nurtured as well and needs to be taken into account in this while mix. I think the official stream of money for research and development is often poorly spent and, you could say, wasted perhaps. As an example, one of the problems of course is the intrusion of corporations into this equation, as I have just mentioned a minute ago with InterGrain in Western Australia. Monsanto has got 20 per cent, the government has still got 54 per cent, but Monsanto is committed to buying up to 26 per cent, which, between GRDC and Monsanto would give them a majority if they chose to exercise it against the interests of the government in Western Australia. Relevant to genetic manipulation is the observation by Prof Adrienne Clarke of Melbourne University, who says that foreign seed, chemical and food processing giants already own the patents on most of the genes of interest for crop development.


This is why we feel pouring more money into a technology, which has primarily corporate goals, rather than into the interests of farmers is a waste. Billions of dollars have been spent over the last 25 years by Australian governments. Just one example was Warren Truss between 2003 and 2005 saying that some $1.29 billion had been spent on gene-manipulation research and development in that period alone. So an enormous amount of money has been invested or spent; I would say wasted. However, there is no mechanism for reality testing this, because governments have decided that gene technology, and now nanotechnology, are engines of economic activity; and that mantra remains unquestioned, it seems. It's picking winners. It's what you actually counselled against on page 19 of your paper, where you say: "The risk that governments will assume too great a role in directing outcomes, or attempt to 'pick winners'."


That is the problem with the current situation with the current funding arrangements, that they have picked winners and they have got a loser on their hands in gene manipulation and they, somehow or other, have never reality tested it and can't see that the money that's going to it is wasted, because it's still being driven along by false promises of things like drought tolerance, salt tolerance, more nutritious food, nitrogen fixation and grains, and a whole raft of other promises, which, in our view, cannot come true because they are multi-genic traits, they depend on a relationship of genes and the simple cut and paste gene manipulation does which has delivered Roundup tolerance and Bt single genes transfer cannot work for multi-genic traits.


MR WEICKHARDT: If I could just ask you to bear in mind that not all the money that's being invested in this area is being invested directly by government. Quite a lot of it is being invested by RDCs, and those RDCs have presumably decided, because they're being directed by their levy payers, that it is worthwhile putting some money into this area.


MR PHELPS (GE): Not only their levy payers, they all have partnerships, contractual partnerships with gene manipulation companies. So that's I think where the push comes from. When we look at it in fact we see - from the figures that you provide in your paper - that as little as 7.1 per cent of the research and development budget, after tax concessions, is actually contributed by corporations. But I dare to say in the case of GM cotton and now GM canola that the vast majority of the benefits actually accrue to those corporations, even though all they did was provide the rights to their genes, which were then incorporated into local varieties by Australian researchers using Australian research and development money, and then the companies have the hide to charge a technology fee to the seed, require people to use their chemicals and then charge an end-point royalty on the harvest as well. So the research and development is being skewed.


MR WEICKHARDT: I invite you to read the transcript of Cotton Australia, who appeared in Canberra - or Sydney, I've forgotten which - and the Cotton RDC submission. Both of them would say that GM cotton has been the salvation of their industry, it wouldn't be here if it were not for that, and they seem entirely happy with the outcome that they have received.


MR PHELPS (GE): Right, so their farmers don't mind paying $315 a hectare end-point royalty to Monsanto?


MR WEICKHARDT: They didn't say that. They said their industry wouldn't exist if it weren't for that.


MR PHELPS (GE): Yes, because they were polluting the Australian environment with synthetic chemicals and they needed to do something about it.


MR WEICKHARDT: Correct.


MR PHELPS (GE): Which they have done in the short term. We'll see whether it's sustainable or not. Another point that you make, with which we very, very strongly agree, is that:


“As a condition of receiving government funding, RDCs should use government funding solely for R and D and related extension purposes and not for any marketing, industry representation or agri-political activities.”


That is spot-on. That is what the principles should include. We strongly support it. But the situation now - hopefully it can become like that - is that this year the federal government has put $38.2 million into NETS, the National Enabling Technologies Strategy, to promote gene technology and nanotechnology. Agrifood Awareness was set up a decade ago jointly by the Grains Research and Development Corporation which puts $100,000 a year, at least - that was the initial figure - into Agrifood Awareness which is purely for promoting gene manipulation. It is done jointly with CropLife which is the peak body of the agrichemical and GM industries, and the National Farmers Federation. I think that that is an irresponsible use of research and development resources, to promote a technology and to try to back winners; that's really what they've done - the thing that you've counselled against. Another example, AusBiotech which used to be the Australian Biotechnology Association, was a scientific organisation, was transformed into a promotional body for GM. $450,000 of federal government money was allocated to the establishment of that organisation and I'm sure that they continue to be supported, and so on. The Victorian and Queensland premiers' offices both belong to the group, Biotechnology Industry Organisation based in Washington DC that promotes GM worldwide on behalf of the US government and US corporations. Our premiers are full members of that organisation and an organisation which uses the term "gene manipulation" not modification. So we strongly support and back your principles for moving in the direction of research and development meaning that, and not meaning backing winners, and not meaning promoting particular technologies politically and through the public domain. You also say, and again we support these things:


"Invest in a balanced portfolio, including longer-term, riskier and potentially higher reward research."


That's really what we would take to mean those things about the environment, communities and the other things that support farmers out on the land to actually do what they do and we really want to emphasise that as the long term, sustainable. We have a responsibility to bequeath to future generations this environment, even in a better condition than we found it, if we can, and I think that should be a substantial function of our research and development push.


Timely adoption of research results - to come back to our presentation to the Grains Research and Development Corporation. The national broadband, Wiki sites which allow people to actually post information to debate, to put ideas up there, real community engagement - that's how we're going to get good research and development priorities set and real good outcomes that can be implemented by rural communities on behalf of the whole community. There's an enormous amount of interest now in food and farming issues and I think that some kind of vehicle like that - the National Broadband Network - is promising rural communities access. It's going to be fast but what's it going to be used for? Getting that information out there and up there and into people's hands where they can really use it and where it can be tested and subject to debate and so on.


That, I think, will be really, really good for the future. You mentioned promoting effective communication with industry stakeholders, researchers and the government. The interested public needs to be factored in there too, please. We are paying for it and we need to be engaged. You also say, "Information on private funding for rural research and development is particularly limited," and we agree again that needs to be remedied. It's very small at the moment but in our view the corporate partners of the people who are doing the research and development are disproportionately the beneficiaries of this. You say also:


“Whatever the total funding commitment, using that funding solely to support the activities of industry-specific RDCs is highly unlikely to provide the best return to the community."


Yes, again, that's why we support the establishment of a new research organisation and it's funding, but again qualified by saying that the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation which has primarily a public-good charter, needs to be kept there as well. Please don't give our government an excuse to shut down another important research and development organisation, as they did virtually unilaterally with CSIRO Land and Water.


Community engagement, yes. If the public is not heard, then the lessons won't be learnt. I think that's the thing, this community, we are a scientific community, science is highly valued but, as we mention at the end - and this is a problem - those corporate partners, as has been found in the USA extensively, can influence priorities and can squelch findings that are not to their liking. Both the Nature Biotechnology and Scientific American, as we quote there in my notes, wrote editorials and extensive informational pieces last year showing that the constraints imposed on, for instance, access to genetically manipulated seed for independent research purposes was meaning that the information about biosafety and environmental impacts simply wasn't becoming available. What little research was being done was finding negative impacts, but wherever it could, the GM industry was denying people access to the materials they needed to do the  research and, secondly, if the research findings weren’t to their liking, was denying them the right to publish.


Now, I'm not saying that that is happening in Australia, but I think that these are the kinds of influences which we maybe don't hear much about unless a group of very brave scientists speak up; that we are not hearing or getting the full picture about not only that, but other technologies. I


think of no till, for example, which is now starting to fall over in the USA, still being embraced by a lot of farmers here and we haven't yet realised the negatives on that. We need to be looking at the environmental and public-health impacts as things as a part of our normal research and development priorities and funding, as well as looking at whether something works, whether it's productive and effective or not. We need a much broader suite of criteria when we're considering whether research and development is needed or should be done. Thank you.


MR WEICKHARDT: Thank you very much indeed.


DR SAMSON: I'll just focus this question on the GRDC because it's the organisation you've referenced the most and it is typical in its structure and its operation of the statutory corporations. In terms of our inquiry, do you feel there is something inherent in the structure and the operation of an entity like the GRDC that is producing skewed outcomes or are we saying that the existence of a skills based independent board comprising a whole cross-section of expertise is simply producing answers you don't like?


MR PHELPS (GE): They need to be open to public critique. They are publicly funded and they're not open to public critique. The reason we made comments, even though we have been engaging with them for the last 20 years and getting their publication every two months and seeing that Agrifood Awareness gets a page every edition to puts it point of view in favour of GM that they are locked into relationships with corporations and with interests that have made a commitment to promote gene-manipulation technologies, for instance, without challenge or discussion. Recently, of course, with your inquiry going on and with other questions about research and development coming up in the public domain, they finally have put out a discussion paper which we have responded to and we appreciate the opportunity to have done that.


But that should have happened all along and we should have been able to engage. We never were. The doors have been shut to us constantly. I think that is what needs to be remedied, that we need to breathe a breath of fresh air through all these institutions. I could mention the place at Bundoora, the state government, we want to go and meet German Spangenberg and his collaborators there. We can't get an invite. They won't answer our calls. We have sought to meet the people at GRDC. We have had a couple of meetings with the NFF who are also committed to this and are a sponsor of Agrifood Awareness but in very limited ways. It just needs to be opened up so that all this public money which is being spent has some priorities attached to it that the community has a say.


Ultimately, we're the ones, not only paying, of course, but who also have the benefit of the outcomes of the productive activity and I think we're partners in that way and should be partners in all aspects. The Plant Functional Genomics Centre in Adelaide is another one that we've tried to engage with without too much success, although, again, about a month ago we got a response finally and an invite to actually go and meet the people there, which is good. So there is a new breath of fresh air and you're part of that and I think that a report which emphasised community benefit, community engagement and participation would be really very helpful. Did I answer the question?


DR SAMSON: I guess I'm still not sure - if you had a magic wand, in terms of how the RDCs are structured, how the boards, at least of the statutory ones, are comprised, is there anything in the organisation and structure that you will change or is what you're looking for a behavioural change of the existing structure?


MR PHELPS (GE): It's a mind-set change and a behavioural change. These organisations all have their critics and we see, of course, the pushing and shoving about wool at the moment and wheat with AWB being sold off and so on. There are all sorts of debates and discussions but none of them are really open. You've got decisions being made by small coteries of people who have particular interests who are able to exclude their critics, and it's not healthy.


MR WEICKHARDT: You mentioned no-till farming falling over in the United States. We would have had multiple people referring to no-till farming in Australia as being one of the greatest steps forward and innovations that has occurred. What do you say it's falling over and what are the lessons?


MR PHELPS (GE): There has just started to be a discussion and debate about what really is going on. But one of the problems appears to be, of course, as usual, overdoing a good thing. If you go spraying the same chemical year after year, as you do on GM crops if you've got Roundup Ready, you keep spraying Roundup, then you get resistant weeds. In Southern USA they've now got weeds that break farm machinery, they're pulling them out with grubbers and their hands, for instance. The perturbations and soil microflora, blooms of all sorts of pathogens as a result of just doing the same thing time after time. But, of course, you're right, these things take time to come undone, to be seen to do the damage that they do. But we ought to get warnings. Chris Preston, weed scientist from Adelaide, is now talking every couple of weeks in the rural media about which rye grasses or other plants are resistant to a whole raft of different chemical herbicides.


These are expensive problems. Australia spends something of the order of $5 billion a year on weed management, most of it on synthetic chemicals at the moment. That option won't be available after a while or it will become astronomically more expensive than it is at the moment.


We have no way of, for instance - he can give all the advice he likes but many farmers ignore it. They will, because it's easy, to put in the herbicide-tolerant crop and just spray the same chemical. That's the signal that the system sends, you know, "Here we've got a great answer to your weed problems, all you have to do is spray everything out and then you're home free." Ecological systems are not that simple and yet people, because they are marginalised," as Bob Katter says real farm incomes have halved over the last 30 years. People are at the end of, "What can I do next to try and survive out here?" So here's something that promises to be easy and trouble-free but the trouble has come along later.


We now know from North American experience since 1996 that these things do have dramatic impacts after a while. You don't see them straight away, that's the thing. But we should be knowing that. That information should be available.


MR WEICKHARDT: I accept that cautionary tale. Of course, that applies to any change, including some of the ones you're advocating, so I guess it does suggest that you proceed cautiously, you experiment and you observe over a long period of time.


MR PHELPS (GE): Yes, and you use the collective wisdom of those people who have already been doing it for a long, long time, all their working lives, perhaps. If you can collect that and make that available somewhere - that's why I'm passionately keen on this idea of using the Internet for that purpose. Getting this (GRDC Ground Cover magazine) every couple of months is helpful and they have a lot of other stuff, but if there was a truly interactional situation and rural people didn't feel so isolated - that's why the government is so keen, I think, to get the national broadband going and that we could have a real debate and discussion, both in the cities and in the country, about what should be happening, it would be, I think, a breath of fresh air.


In the discussion about the population of Australia, we might also think about making a priority category a new wave of those small-scale producers who came in the 50s and 60s and went on the land and value added products and are still - I go to the farmers markets, half the people there are those older folk who have been doing that agricultural activity for all that time sustainably, value adding their products, producing a great product and now marketing it direct to their customers and we need them to be replaced. Most of the people in the city are not interested in going and being a farmer but there are plenty of people around the world that's their life, that's their expertise and maybe we need a new influx of people to populate rural regions to do science based, well thought out activities that will feed and clothe and house future generations of Australians without wrecking the environment and having a good future for Australia. We need that big picture goal in order to see where we should go, whereas at the moment the agenda is more yield, more productivity, more inputs, how do we deal with the higher prices of the scarcer inputs - like the fertiliser price goes up 500 per cent, what do we do? Those are the practical things that research and development could try to look to and there are many ideas: natural sequence farming, keyline even which has been around for a long time which hasn't had much attention. Maarten Stapper, ex-CSIRO, working on soil organisms and other laboratories doing soil testing to get people's soil right, you know, to get working for us without being dependent on inputs of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.


We need a new vision.


MR WEICKHARDT: Thank you very much indeed for your input. I appreciate you taking the trouble to come along.


MR PHELPS (GE): I hope it was helpful. Thank you very much.


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Brumby and Baillieu fail on GM policies

19 November 2010

ALP  Victorian Government and Coalition responses to Gene Ethics' GM policy questionnaire for the Victorian election show both are heavily committed to the adoption of GM crops and foods. In stark contrast, the Greens and Socialist Alliance back comprehensive GM-free policies.


John Brumby's and Ted Baillieu's policies on genetically manipulated (GM) foods and crops are out of step with the valid concerns of most Victorians. Their backing for GM ignores 20 years of public opinion survey results that consistently show most Australians reject the untested, unsafe and unwanted products of GM technology.


It is particularly telling that the two old parties would not end the Premier's membership of the Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO), which promotes GM around the world on behalf of the US government and its GM industry.


In contrast, the Greens back a new ban on commercial GM canola and other GM crops in our state and have excellent policies that envisage a positive future for clean, green GM-free farming.


The only commitment from all parties was to increase funds for the development of sustainable farming systems - e.g. organic and GM-free - less dependent on declining stocks of oil and phosphates. With climate change looming out on farms, this promise must be fulfilled as soon as possible so that Victorian farmers can continue to manage the food bowl of the nation for this and future generations.


This election provides a real opportunity for voters to influence policy for GM-free food and crops for the next decade. If the Greens GM-free stance on our survey questions turns into a positive response from electors on November 27, GM policy should change for the better, whoever wins government.


Download the GM-free election scorecard

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SA GM canola 'trials' threatening GM-free status

09 November 2010

Bayer Cropscience has applied to 'trial' genetically manipulated herbicide tolerant canola at 21 sites of up to 6 hectares each, in Victoria and 'GM-free' South Australia, from January 2011. The South Australian government has granted the proposed 'trials' an exemption from the ban on GM canola, in force until 2014 at least.


Victoria and NSW experience shows that so-called 'trials' were used as a lever to end GM bans and allow the unconditional, unrestricted and uncontrolled commercial growing of GM canola.


Gene Ethics urges the South Australian government, with the support of the Liberal opposition, the Greens and most independents, to keep the GM genie in the bottle totally and permanently.


The federal Office of Gene Technology Regulator is expected to notify six South Australian local government areas - Grant, Kingston, Mt Gambier, Naracoorte/Lucindale, Robe and Wattle Range - of Bayer's intention to hold GM trials, despite their long history of council opposition to GM crops.


These councils can take their lead from the Donnybrook-Balingup Shire in Western Australia.  At their last meeting, Donnybrook-Balingup shire councillors unanimously opposed Monsanto's application to field trial GM canola in their area from 2011 to 2014.


Previous GM canola 'trials' were always during summer when conventional canola crops were not grown. But the summer and winter plantings now proposed would greatly increase the risk that wind and insects will contaminate the winter canola crop in south eastern South Australia with GM pollen and seed.


Gene Ethics' Cropwatch program has uncovered numerous instances of rogue GM canola growing on roadsides and contaminating non-GM supply chains wherever GM canola is grown.


Keeping South Australia GM-free should be a priority for government, the food industry and shoppers.


Background


Weatherill drives pre-election debate - ABC ...


South Austraila: GM-Free till 2014!


 


Some recent GM canola contamination


http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/11/26/2429844.htm


Rogue GM canola found on roadsides, eaten by sheep




Proposed Local Government Areas in which GM canola and Indian mustard may be released during winter and summer growing seasons below.





















































































Winter growing season



Summer growing season



Victoria



South Australia



Victoria



South Australia



Ararat



Grant



Ararat



Grant



Colac-Otway



Kingston



Colac-Otway



Kingston



Corangamite



Mount Gambier



Corangamite



Mount Gambier



Glenelg



Naracoorte/Lucindale



Glenelg



Naracoorte/Lucindale



Golden Plains



Robe



Golden Plains



Robe



Hindmarsh



Wattle Range



Moorabool



Wattle Range



Horsham



 



Moyne



 



Moorabool



 



Northern Grampians



 



Moyne



 



Southern Grampians



 



Northern Grampians



 



Surf Coast



 



Warrnambool



 



Warrnambool



 





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IPS quotes Gene Ethics on costliness of African trials

02 November 2010

Source: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53247


Could Water-Efficient Maize Boost Africa's Food Security?
By Busani Bafana


Oct 21, 2010 (IPS) - As controlled field trials of a genetically modified (GM) crop are about to begin in five African countries amidst promises of improved crops grown under poor conditions, critics are charging organisations with selling out the interests of African farmers.

A team of scientists in the United States, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique has developed water-efficient maize varieties under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. The high-yielding maize varieties are said to be adapted to African conditions and tolerant to various stresses, including pest and disease resistance, found on farmers’ fields in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Soon controlled field trials of 12 WEMA varieties will begin in the five African countries.

The drought-tolerant WEMA varieties were developed in partnership with the Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF); the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico; multi-national biotechnology company, Monsanto; and the national agriculture research organisations in the five African countries. The programme started in 2008.

But organisations against GM crops, such as Gene Ethics, argue that this biotechnology is not about food security, but profits for commercial interests. Bob Phelps of Gene Ethics in Australia charged that the WEMA project with selling out the interests of African farmers. He said the project was advancing corporate access to public resources and markets in order to maximise private profit.

"This is nothing more than a scheme to unfairly promote and advantage GM techniques and their products over all other means to achieve rural sustainability for African communities. The AATF considers only genetic manipulation solutions to Africa's drought problems, ignoring all other technologies and management strategies," Phelps told IPS.

"The strategy also substitutes 'drought tolerance' with 'helping plants to cope with the stress of drought' - a more rubbery, unquantified and undefined concept open to interpretation," Phelps said.

But Africa has more mouths to feed despite strides to boost agriculture investment and its under-resourced small holder farmers. Some farmers desperate to earn a living think the GM crops should be given a chance.

Berean Mukwende, a maize famer in Zimbabwe and vice-President of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, said given poor growing conditions and low yields in drought-prone countries like Zimbabwe, drought-resistant varieties of staple maize should be considered.

"Seed is expensive and normally not available in rural areas and (are) often not the suitable varieties. But with yields low, higher yield and drought-resistant varieties (of maize) would raise productivity and are welcome," Mukwende said.

He added: "Farmers do not have finance to purchase the seeds and welcome a reduction in cost and are always on the lookout for high yields, drought tolerance, and resistance to pests and diseases traits in seeds."

AATF's Project Communications Officer, Grace Wachoro, told IPS that the WEMA project is using advanced breeding technology based on germplasm from CIMMYT's Drought Tolerance Maize for Africa. The project will incorporate the transgenic drought tolerance trait into some of these new drought-tolerant hybrids.

AATF said during moderate drought, the new varieties are expected to increase yields by 24 to 35 percent compared to current varieties without this form of drought tolerance. If the project succeeds, the increase in yields would translate into two million additional tonnes of maize harvested during drought years.

"That means 14 to 21 million people in the five countries we are targeting would have more to eat and sell," Wachoro told IPS from Nairobi, Kenya.

In addition, AAFT says, the new varieties have human and environmental health benefits through the reduced need and use for pesticides. The crop is also fortified with increased minerals and vitamins for better health.

But biotechnology promises for boosting food security have not waned despite growing scepticism about the safety of GM crops. If anything, they have fed the case against GM foods.

Gene Ethics believes the WEMA plan focuses exclusively on higher yields with GM crops dependent on increasingly expensive and scarce inputs, such as oil-based fertilisers, pesticides and machinery fuels. The organisation said integrated, biodiverse cropping and management systems that would better serve the long-term needs of rural communities for environmental sustainability, nutrition and balanced diets should be considered as possible solutions.

AAFT has said smallholder farmers will have to pay for the seeds because Monsanto was donating advanced breeding, biotechnology, and expertise to improve the drought tolerance of maize varieties adapted to African conditions. However, they will not be charged royalties.

The varieties will be licensed without charge through AATF for development, testing, and eventual deployment through multiple seed distribution channels.

But Phelps is not convinced. He said nothing is free in the long run and African farmers will pay year after year for GM seed that they cannot save for replanting.

"Monsanto offers its GM seed products free at first, as it did in South America with soy and corn," he said.

"Monsanto and AATF plan to hook African farmers and governments who will buy GM products later at top prices when other options such as farm-saved seed have disappeared."

(END)


India's Dr Vandana Shiva, recipient of the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize, speaks at length on why GM cannot feed the world and how the Green Revolution has lead to systemic world hunger here. 

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Australia shuns the Biosafety Protocol

17 October 2010

Australia shuns the UN Protocol on Biosafety that most countries will adopt in Nagoya, Japan, next week. The protocol is a global quarantine and customs treaty to protect the environment and human health from genetically manipulated organisms (GMOs).

The treaty tries to minimize risks of international transfer, handling and use of GMOs and is the first & only protocol negotiated by parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).


As a party to the CBD, Australia ought to join the protocol and cooperate with the 160 other countries that are already members. Australia should repudiate the US government and GM industry stance that seeks to undermine the protocol. The USA is not even a party to the Biodiversity Convention.

The Australian government claims the protocol may be used as a non-tariff barrier to trade but most other countries now see this key protocol as no threat to free trade. Of 18 members of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries (led by Australia) that tried to scuttle the protocol, 13 have now ratified or acceded to the Protocol. (See: www.cbd.int).

The only Cairns Group countries still outside the protocol are Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile and Uruguay. While North and South American states may be forced to align themselves with the US, Australia would benefit much more from co-operating with the GM-free states in our region to avoid the public health and environmental predations of GMOs.


Gene Ethics has asked Trade Minister Craig Emerson to strongly advocate for the Australian Government, in this term of office, to:


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Gates Foundation should support real solutions to hunger

14 October 2010

http://www.change.org/petitions/view/tell_the_gates_foundation_to_support_real_solutions_to_hunger


Targeting: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Started by: Community Alliance for Global Justice: AGRA Watch


In 2006, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was launched as a joint initiative of the Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation. AGRA's primary goal claims to be to alleviate poverty and reduce hunger in Africa through agricultural development that targets small-scale farmers.


Unfortunately, the Gates Foundation promotes industrial farming, inappropriate technologies, and pro-corporate policies that threaten to make things worse for the hungry, small farmers, consumer health, and the environment in Africa. A handful of large-scale farmers and transnational agribusiness corporations, like Monsanto and Syngenta, may be the only real beneficiaries of AGRA.


In the words of a representative of the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, "AGRA is poison for our farming systems and livelihoods. Under the philanthropic banner of greening agriculture, AGRA will eventually eat away what little is left of sustainable small-scale farming in Africa."


Many farmers in Africa are calling for an alternative approach to sustaining their communities and land. "African farmers are seeking food sovereignty and not imposed unhealthy foods," says Kenyan biointensive farmer Samuel Nderitu. "Indigenous knowledge that has been embraced by farmers in Africa for decades has been farmer friendly, environmentally sound and humane, as opposed to modernized agriculture...African food is healthy and nutritious. We don't need GMOs!" Indeed, scientific studies show that small-scale sustainable agriculture has the potential to revitalize rural economies, mitigate climate change and its effects, restore and preserve the environment, eradicate poverty, and provide healthy, culturally appropriate food for all.

You can make a difference TODAY by pressuring the Gates Foundation to support real solutions to hunger, poverty, and climate change. Stand with civil society organizations, farmers, farmworkers, and farmer organizations, grassroots groups, health and consumer organizations, environmental groups, scientists, and academics in the US, Africa, and around the world in urging the Gates Foundation to support African solutions to African problems.

This petition is the companion to an organizational sign-on letter to the Foundation. Visit the AGRA Watch website http://www.seattleglobaljustice.org/agra-watch/ to learn more!

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GM soy linked to birth defects, cancer: new study

06 October 2010

Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup used on genetically manipulated (GM) Roundup Ready crops is linked to human cell death, birth defects, cancer and miscarriages, says a report released at the European Parliament by an international group of scientists. The report comes at a crucial time for Australia, where a popular infant soy formula has tested positive to unlabelled GM soy and corn, and Roundup Ready canola and cotton are grown.


The report, “GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible?”, highlights new research by Argentine government scientist Professor Andrés Carrasco and an international coalition of scientists. They found serious health impacts from Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, other chemicals in the formulated herbicide and its breakdown products. The report also provides a global overview of scientific papers and other documents on the impacts of GM soy production.


GM Roundup Ready (RR) soy is now more than 90% of soy grown in North American and Argentina, and is also widely spread in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia. Monsanto’s own data shows Roundup herbicide sales have skyrocketed since GM RR crops were first planted in the USA in 1996. The amount of toxic herbicide now used on soy has public health implications.


At the European Parliament in Brussels where the report was presented, Prof Carrasco said childhood cancer had increased by 300% and babies with birth defects by 400% during the past decade in parts of Argentina. GM RR soy is grown there to supply European and Australian farmers with cheap GM animal feed.


The report also refers to studies that found: the uterus and ovaries of female rats fed GM RR soy showed changes; rabbits’ kidney and heart enzyme functions were disturbed. An intergenerational study of hamsters fed GM soy found slower growth rates and higher mortality among pups, and widespread infertility in the third generation.


This study is just the latest example of the dangers of GM, and the Australian response to GM ingredients in baby formula is grossly inadequate. Every test for GM contamination of S-26 formula has been positive for GM contamination. Yet our food regulator FSANZ refuses to mandate a recall, while Coles and Woolworths refuse to remove S-26 from their shelves.


This routine contamination requires GM labelling under the law. If FSANZ won’t act on this false and misleading failure to label GM ingredients, then the ACCC should intervene.


The Gillard Government must support independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Greens Senator Rachel Siewert who both want to fix up our food labelling laws. Labels must enable parents to choose baby formulas that that are not GM polluted. The Government should ensure the assessment criteria of all novel foods, including GM, are amended and to remove the loopholes in Standard 1.5 that exempt most GM and other novel food products from any requirement to be labelled as such.

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GM-free week of action starts 10/10/10

02 October 2010

GM-free week Facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?# /event.php?eid=150325058311007


Wednesday 13th October - Food Company Lobby Day.


Take 3 minutes out of your busy day to email or phone the big food companies - telling them"We want our food to stay GM free".


To ask Pfizer/Wyeth for an immediate recall of GM contaminated infant formula S-26 Soy, ring their toll free number 1800552229 


To lobby Health Minister Nicola Roxon asking her to fix our "rigorous" labelling laws so they really protect us.


http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/issues/GE/taking-action .


To contact Woolworths ring 1300 767 969 or email :
http://www.woolworths.com.au/wps/wcm/connect/website/woolworths/contact+us/contact-us
To contact Coles ring 1800 061562 or email :
http://www.coles.com.au/Coles/Coles-Feedback.aspx
Other companies : http://www.truefood.org.au/takeaction/?action=FOODCO


Lobby the WA Agriculture minister on GM wheat  http://www.geneethics.org/actnow
Free copies of the 2010 True Food Guide which lists the companies committed to GM free from support@au.greenpeace.org or ring 1800815151


Friday 15th October Speak-out against Monsanto!
Meet at 11am at Flinders Street Station under the clocks.
Monsanto has begun a campaign to "change the opposition many Australia consumers have to genetically modified food". If you feel outraged, come along to speak on the open microphone and hear speeches from Via Campesina representatives, angry mums
and farmers.

Saturday 16th October 2010 - UN World Food Day 
# South Australia Genetic Food Information Network (SAGFIN) AGM and workshop
2 pm at 59 Regent St Adelaide. Bring a GM free plate and hear from Dr Kate Clinch-Jones who will explore the safety aspects of GM foods.
http://www.wiserearth.org/organization/view/b9e270ee447b42e4fb285bf1647da999


# Fish Creek Farmers Market (Gippsland) Transition Towns event.

# PPUFFN World Food Day Event at the Eco Centre, Blessington St, St Kilda Melbourne
Music, stalls, local food and cooking displays. GM free stall and talks by MADGE. Proceeds to Care Australia
http://www.ecocentre.com/node/174
More info : Gardeners at EcoCentre gardeners@ecocentre.com

Your own event on World Food Day:
Enjoy non-processed locally sourced food with your friends, and build awareness of the threats to our food chain;
www.madge.org.au has a section on delicious food grown in our region. Your group could watch a DVD clip from "The World According to Monsanto" Search for your favourite clip on youtube and watch it at your event.


October 16th: International day of Action against Agribusiness and Monsanto Media release by international peasant movement La Via Campesina.

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GM salmon - our interview featured in The World Today

17 September 2010

Ashley Hall reported this story on Friday, September 17, 2010 12:18:00




SHANE MCLEOD: An Australian aquaculture specialist says fish farmers here are unlikely to embrace a new genetically modified salmon that's up for approval in the United States.

The US Food and Drug Administration will hold hearings next week ahead of a likely decision to approve the GM fish for people to eat.

Critics are worried about the potential health and environmental problems the new fish might cause.

Ashley Hall reports.

ASHLEY HALL: It's been dubbed "Frankenfish" and could soon be headed for dinner plates right across North America.

To make the new super-fish, scientists transplanted a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon into an Atlantic salmon. The result: a fish that grows in half the time.

BOB PHELPS: We know that these fish will have dramatic impacts on the environment according to the research that has been done over the last 15 years and it should not be put into the food supply or into our environment.

ASHLEY HALL: Bob Phelps is the executive director of Gene Ethics, which advocates for a sustainable GM-free society.

BOB PHELPS: If those genetically manipulated fish get out into wild salmon populations then it is very likely that those wild salmon populations will go extinct within as few as 40 generations.

ASHLEY HALL: The likely environmental impact of farming GM salmon is just one of the objections raised by opponents to the developing menu of genetically modified food.

And that's even though Aqua Bounty Technologies, the company behind the new fish, insists it will keep its creation well away from wild fish stocks.

BOB PHELPS: We see with the sorts of floods that have been common over the last month or two in Australia that fish turn up in environments very remote from where they have been for years. They are simply not containable.

We see also that in Australia the genetically manipulated canola that is now being grown in Victoria and New South Wales is now ubiquitous on roadsides and in other disturbed environments as a weed.

ASHLEY HALL: But the environment is not something that's up for consideration by the US Food and Drug Administration. That's because the fish eggs will be produced in Canada before they're shipped to Panama to grow to full size.

SHARON LABCHUK: Nothing is taking place in the States except the consumption of the fish so that is all the Americans really are looking at and if they were growing the eggs and producing the fish, they would be undergoing an entirely different assessment in the United States. So they are doing it to avoid proper accountability.

ASHLEY HALL: Sharon Labchuk is a member of Earth Action - one of a coalition of Canadian environmental groups that are opposed to the approval of the GM fish.

SHARON LABCHUK: I don't think Canadians are going to be happy when they understand that we are being used as pawns in a game by major corporations to avoid proper accountability and to unleash this environmental disaster on the rest of the world.

ASHLEY HALL: What the US food authority will look at though is whether the salmon is safe to eat. It will hold public meetings next week, having already found the salmon eggs are fit for human consumption.

Bob Phelps says the food authorities in the US and in Australia take the wrong approach.

BOB PHELPS: Our food authorities, including the food authority in Australia, proceed on the basis that all food is safe until there is evidence otherwise. We say that the onus of proof for safety and efficacy of new foods, particularly those foods that have got a very limited history of safe use in the human food supply, are that the onus of proof for safety should be on the proponents.

ASHLEY HALL: Under US law there's no requirement to label the new salmon as a genetically modified organism, although the chief executive of Aqua Bounty Technologies, Ronald Stotish, says he's encouraging customers to do so.

RONALD STOTISH: In the US they currently require labelling for identity, for nutrition and for allergy or food safety. If the food is the same, there is no requirement for additional labelling.

ASHLEY HALL: Bob Phelps says the GM fish probably wouldn't need a special label in Australia, either.

BOB PHELPS: That would be a judgement for the regulator but on past performance it is very likely that they would find some way through it so that they could deny to shoppers in Australia the right to know whether or not something had been gene manipulated.

ASHLEY HALL: But his concerns about the fish coming to Australia may be misplaced.

Dr Dean Jerry is with the aquaculture genetics research program at James Cook University in Townsville. He says genetically modified food has the potential to play an enormous role in addressing food security problems around the world, particularly in breeding crops and livestock that are resistant to pests.

But he says local fish farmers are unlikely to be interested in the new fish.

DEAN JERRY: The Australian industry, because of the sensitivities, I think would be very reluctant to take on GMOs when they can achieve the same sort of result using more traditional genetic approaches without having to deal with those sensitivities.

ASHLEY HALL: It's an argument anti-GM campaigners won't buy. Bob Phelps believes that as soon as the new fish is available, it will be on its way to Australia.

BOB PHELPS: Even if it is a matter of somebody bringing some fish eggs in, in a jar in their pocket, we could very well see them arriving here.

SHANE MCLEOD: Bob Phelps, the executive director of Gene Ethics, ending Ashley Hall's report.


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Rogue GM canola found on roadsides, eaten by sheep

17 September 2010

Feral GM canola weeds have been discovered on roadsides in Western Victoria. Canola farmer Geoff Carracher discovered the GM canola weeds and sent them to Gene Ethics for testing, which showed up positive.


The GM contamination has already started spreading further: upon a later inspection of the GM canola weeds, near Bringalbert, north of Apsley, Mr Carracher, from the Network of concerned Farmers, noticed some of them had been eaten by nearby sheep.


These rogue GM plants are probably from seed spilt on the way to the GrainCorp grain dump at Lillimur last year. The Lillimur site was also contaminated when GM canola was dumped in a non-GM bin. The feral plants infest more than 100 metres of roadside and should be eradicated before they set seed as the GM contamination will spread.


West Wimmera Shire has asked the Department of Primary Industries to clarify who is responsible to clean up, but their response is not known. In 2008 when numerous GM canola weeds were found on roadsides near Horsham, requests to the Shire, Main Roads and the Agriculture Minister's office got no response. Local farmers had a working bee to pull up and bag the plants for destruction.


Monsanto's patented weeds are the company's responsibility but governments here have not enforced the cleanup against them. State governments license polluters and have profitable public private partnerships with them so there is no action.


In North Dakota, United States, where feral GM canola is widely dispersed in all environments, Monsanto covers the cost of removing the weeds. In California, it also issues free test kits so farmers can check if they have the company's GM canola on their properties without a licence.


Only 8% of the Australian canola crop is now GM but If GM canola weeds spread, many GM-free farmers will be out of business. The GM-free canola premium of $15 per tonne reflects the strong GM-free preferences of shoppers.

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Monsanto eyes Australian wheat

08 September 2010

Tell West Australian Agriculture Minister Terry Redman  that you want the leading government public plant breeding program to remain in public hands. Without discussion, Redman has allowed Monsanto to acquire a 19.9% slice of InterGrain and GM wheat will be a priority for the new public private partnership.


Tell Redman not to allow control of our food production systems by the world's biggest and least scrupulous commercial seed company.


Email Terry Redman: Minister.Redman@dpc.wa.gov.au or telephone Redman's office: (08) 9213 6700 Fax: (08) 9213 6701.


More information:


ABC Radio webstory


Listen to ABC Radio National's interview with InterGrain about its plans

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Processed breakfast cereals mostly Frankenfoods

19 August 2010
The Organic Consumers Association's Stop Monsanto! campaign states:

In Kellogg's most recent letter to consumers, "Consumer Specialist" Christina Calleros writes Biotech ingredients are safe and have become common in the open market. Sixty to seventy percent of packaged foods in the U.S. include biotechnology crops. Even organic ingredients can contain biotech ingredients due to cross-pollination.


Please take a moment to write to Calleros. Tell her that Frankenfoods are not safe! Scientists reviewing Monsanto's own studies "have proven that genetically engineered foods are neither sufficiently healthy or proper to be commercialized." The US Supreme Court recently ruled that the potential of genetically engineered crops to pollute organic varieties is a reason to hold back Monsanto's Frankencrops -- not promote them!


Join the Kellogg's boycott! (requires a US email address).

Contact Kellogg’s in Australia or on Facebook or Twitter: http://twitter.com/kelloggsuk.

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Gillard and Abbott fail on Gene Manipulation policies

11 August 2010

Gene Ethics’ federal election survey reveals both major parties are very aware of deep community concerns over genetically manipulated organisms (GMOs) on farms and in food. But unlike the Greens, neither the ALP nor the Coalition will commit to strengthening the law or regulatory system. This complacency over GM threats means the Greens’ clear support for GM-free futures and precaution on GM food and crops will be crucial if they hold the balance of power in the next parliament.


 In contrast to Labor and the Coalition, the Australian Greens and Socialist Alliance answered our survey questions, based on their well-developed GM and sustainable agriculture policies. Greens policies support a rural transition in response to the end of oil and phosphates, and climate change. But the ALP and Libs back industrial farming for export, propped up by Monsanto’s GM crops and animals.


 Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd failed to implement ALP policy on GM in their first term, ignoring the 2007 promise not to approve commercial GM crop releases unless proven safe “beyond reasonable doubt”. Also in 2007, the ALP conference supported the “comprehensive labelling of genetically modified food”. The Government broke these promises and also spent $38.2 million to establish the National Enabling Technologies Strategy, which promotes genetic manipulation and nanotechnology.


The ALP letter in response to the Gene Ethics election survey confirmed that if re-elected, a Gillard Government would not support the labelling of all foods made using GM techniques. The Coalition made no commitment of labelling either. The ALP also says it supports the “existing robust national framework for managing and regulating GM crops and food”, despite our food regulator FSANZ ignoring key evidence on GM food safety and approving every GM application, including for some GM foods banned overseas.


 The ALP and the Coalition will not join the Biosafety Protocol (under the UN Convention on Biodiversity), which aims for the safe international transfer, handling and use of GMOs to protect global biodiversity. Yet 160 countries are already members of the treaty.


 The Coalition letter says, in part: “"The Coalition has no plans to change laws or regulations related to genetically modified organisms… [but] once we have reduced Labor's debt and deficit we will be open to new commitments to increase research into GMOs and their impact.”


 See all the survey responses, letters and policies on GM at: http://www.geneethics.org/resource.


 Take action ahead of the election – email the parties and tell them what you think.


Parties' report card


ALP letter responding to our survey questions


Coalition letter responding to our survey questions


Greens survey response and GM policy


Socialist Alliance survey response and Agriculture policy

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Tell Coles you want GM-free poultry products

08 August 2010

Major retailer Coles has admitted their two biggest chicken suppliers use GM feed. If you want to avoid GM chicken products and are shopping in Coles in West Australia or Tasmania, you can't even get GM-free certified organic chicken brands, meaning that if you eat poultry you're eating GM.


Coles responds to our enquirer: "we will continue to monitor the customer demand and will endeavour to adjust our range accordingly".


However they try to weazel out of the situation, by saying that although their chickens eat GM feed, this "does not affect the genetic make up of chicken". Go figure!


Don't let Coles get away with weazel words instead of action. Tell them you want chickens that have not been given GM feed: Coles.Customer.Care@coles.com.au

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Lobby candidates for GM-free this election

08 August 2010

Please send your emails to Prime Minister Julia Gillard: 


laborconnect@australianlabor.com.au and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott: Tony.Abbott.MP@aph.gov.au. Please also email the Greens to commend them for their support of GM-free: senator.siewert@aph.gov.au.


Possible email:


Please support a strengthening of the law so that no genetically manipulated (GM) organisms can be released without strong and independent proof that they are safe for the environment and public health.

My family and I want only GM-free crops on farms and we don't want to buy or eat GM foods.

We want you to ensure all foods made using GM are labelled so we can choose what to buy and eat - including vegetable oils, sugars and starches, and the meat, milk eggs and honey from animals fed GM.

Oil and phosphate are depleting fast and global climate change is here, now. What plans do you have for public participation to create a really clean, green, GM-free, sustainable future of plentiful, nutritious and affordable food for all?


I eat, I vote and I want GM-free food and crops.



Please send me a written response to this letter.

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GM is a failure, our new submissions show

07 August 2010

Rural R&D Productivity Inquiry comments


Facts included


-          Hunger has risen from 350 million to more than 1 billion since GM crops introduced.


-          The International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture noted that the dominant industrial food production is very vulnerable to climate change, as well as a major contributor to it.


-          The US Govt is investigating Monsanto for anti-trust behaviour regarding withholding seed from farmers.


-          GM multinationals reap the bulk of profits of intellectual property from research done at taxpayers’ expense. An example is GM cotton where researchers funded most of the efforts but Monsanto applied a hefty technology fee, claiming ownership of the Bt and Roundup Ready genes.


-          Data from the industry-backed ISAAA shows GM technology has been stalled for years, with GM production confined to a handful of countries.


-          The Senate has heard how CSIRO scientists who oppose GM are “gagged, under pain of disciplinary action”.


-          A shows almost one in three UK scientists and technicians are pressured to change findings and results.


Other recent submissions:


Licence Application for Commercial Release of a living
Genetically Manipulated (GM) Vaccine


Victoria's Draft Biodiversity Strategy "Biodiversity is Everyone's Business"


OGTR Proposed Regulatory Amendments


 


 

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GM farms revealed on our online map

28 July 2010

Gene Ethics today launches an online map to help non-GM growers pinpoint those farms where genetically manipulated (GM) canola is growing. The State Government broke its promise to publish a map of all GM farms.



The map publishes information that non-GM farmers need to reduce the risks of GM contamination on their farms and in the food supply. The map plots 14 farmers who publicly said they were growing, or intended to grow, GM canola this year. This is the first season since the ban on commercial GM canola was lifted by the state government.



WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman told Parliament he would 'accurately reflect the location' of GM farms and was 'happy for GM growers to be identified [on a Government online map]'. But his map shows only the shires where GM canola is grown.


 


Minister Redman lulled the public and his doubting colleagues into a false sense of security by promising openness then refusing to deliver. Most people do not want GM food or crops. GM canola is being discounted $15 per tonne against GM-free canola in the eastern states.



Our map can help farmers identify possible sources of contamination - without knowing the identity of GM farmers, non-GM farmers have no legal recourse to recover economic loss caused by GM contamination.



To view the Gene Ethics map, go to www.geneethics.org/maps and click "GM farms"

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World According to Monsanto wrap from our ED

22 July 2010

GM crop safety a little seedy


1 comment


Bob Phelps


Bob Phelps


A compelling new book, The World According to Monsanto: pollution, politics and power, is a credible expose of the controversial US agribusiness and industrial giant.

During its chequered career, since being founding in 1901, Monsanto has manufactured and sold agricultural and industrial chemicals, human and animal pharmaceuticals and now genetically manipulated (GM) crops. Many of its products killed and maimed people and permanently polluted environments worldwide.

As this book, by investigative journalist Marie-Monique Robin, says: "Monsanto was fully aware of their harmfulness but developed the habit of publicly asserting the opposite of what was known inside the company."

For instance, Monsanto asserted the safety of lethal dioxin in its Agent Orange, sprayed in Vietnam during the war; toxic PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) chemicals which now permanently pollute ecosystems globally; and the unsafe GM soy, corn, canola and cottonseed products now in most processed foods, unlabelled.

Independent surveys have found Monsanto to be the least ethical among hundreds of transnational corporations. Monsanto withdrew the advertising claim that its herbicide Roundup is: "biodegradable and good for the environment", only after negative findings by courts in France and the state of New York. In February 2010, a former director of Monsanto India, Tiruvadi Jagadisan, confirmed the company "used to fake scientific data" so regulators would approve its products. For bribing Indonesian regulators, the company paid $1.5 million to US government authorities, and Canadian whistle blowers say they were offered bribes to approve hazardous bovine growth hormone.

To gain favourable government policies and ensure market access, Monsanto uses the "revolving door" - a mechanism of official influence. Senior company executives create close ties to politicians, regulators and elected officials everywhere and in some cases even make public policy themselves. For instance, senior Monsanto people have left the company for key spots in the US Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration where they set policies on GM crops and foods, even over the objections of many of these agencies' own experts. They return to Monsanto or associated companies.

Monsanto is also one of the most litigious corporations, in terms of both suing and being sued. For example, many citizens of Anniston, Alabama who lived near a Monsanto PCB factory, died from PCB-induced cancers. During the class action they discovered internal documents confirming the company had known for decades that PCBs were extremely poisonous but had not prevented their health and environmental impacts. On the other hand, Monsanto sued hundreds of US farmers for having its patented GM seed without a contract. So many farmers suffered this fate that in 2008 the Californian government decided contamination of non-GM farms by GM pollen and seed was inevitable and Governor Schwartzenegger legislated to prevent Monsanto from suing non-GM farmers.

The company uses the patent system to pursue its ownership and control of the global food supply, to create a flow of monopoly profits. The US-imposed global patent system allows Monsanto to claim GM crops, animals and microbes as new "inventions". By using GM laboratory techniques to add just one gene to publicly bred, traditional plants and animals, it claims patent ownership over varieties that our forebears bred over thousands of years. In a clear double standard, Monsanto also weakens government regulation by claiming its GM products are not radically new and that GM techniques are just an extension of traditional breeding.

Monsanto and its subsidiaries are now the world's biggest commercial seed corporation, owning more than 90 per cent of all GM crop varieties and 26 per cent of conventional commercial seeds globally. The US Department of Justice is now investigating Monsanto's monopoly behaviour - unfairly escalating seed and chemical prices and limiting the supply of conventional seed to farmers who want to stay GM-free. Monsanto contracts prohibit GM farmers from exercising their age-old right to save seed for replanting next year.

Australian Agriculture Minister Tony Burke parrots Monsanto CEO, Hugh Grant, claiming the world's booming population means we must accept GM crops. But since GM crops were launched in 1996, the number of malnourished and starving people worldwide has skyrocketed from 350 million to 1.2 billion.

GM crops yield no more than the best conventional crop varieties, GM techniques are crude and unreliable, and their products are unstable outside the laboratories where they are created. United Nations Environment Program research concluded that organic farming offers the best chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition, and increasing yields, in Africa. And the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, a five-year study by 400 scientists, concluded that GM crops cannot provide the local, healthy, plentiful and cheap foods that the world needs.

For 25 years, tens of billions of taxpayer dollars have been squandered on GM projects. These resources should have been invested in saving our soils, drought-proofing our farms and providing real food security for all. With oil and phosphates now running out and the global climate changing, high-input, chemical-based industrial agriculture will collapse. We must change our farming methods, and fast.

The preface to Robin's book portrays a global corporation that is "convinced that it knows better than anyone else what is good for humanity, persuaded that it is accountable to no-one, appropriating the planet as its playing field and profit centre. In Monsanto's position outside democratic control, it is hard to tell whether it is commercial blindness, scientific arrogance, or pure and simple cynicism that dominates."

But this chemical-giant-turned-seed-engineer is also tightening its grip on the global food supply that sustains us all. Restoring control of these vital resources to public hands where they belong may not be easy, but it must be done.

Bob Phelps is founder and executive director of Australian non-profit GM-free advocacy group Gene Ethics. The World According to Monsanto is out now from Spinifex Press.

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Submissions invited on GM cotton application

12 July 2010

FSANZ invites submissions on Application A1040 Food derived from insect-protected and herbicide-tolerant cotton line GHB119. Details of the Assessment Report for Application 1040 can be found on www.foodstandards.gov.au.


Submissions should reach FSANZ by Monday 16 August 2010.


Note that the products of this cotton - cottonseed oil, linters and animal feed - will be unlabelled.


Don’t be put of by FSANZ’s approach: “we have already concluded that food derived from cotton GHB119 is as safe for human consumption as that derived from conventional cotton varieties, and intend to approve it”.


Make sure to email a copy of your submission to Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon: Nicola.Roxon.MP@aph.gov.au.


Let’s keep our food regulator accountable!

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World According to Monsanto book released

07 July 2010

Monsanto, the multinational behind Agent Orange, consistently scores badly in ethical corporate rankings, yet it is in control of an increasing share of the world’s food supplies.
(http://www.ethicalquote.com/index.php/ethical-rankings/across-sectors/)
Like the hit documentary “Food Inc”, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MONSANTO will change the way we think about food.


As the author reports, following its long history of manufacturing hazardous chemicals and herbicides, Monsanto is now marketing itself as a “life sciences” company. However, Monsanto controls the majority of the world’s genetically modified seeds such as corn and soy – ingredients found in a high percentage of households.


 


Download 5-page Spinifex Press media release with excerpts and glossary here.

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Please support our 2010 appeal

15 June 2010

Please help us plan ahead by becoming a regular or occasional donor by taking a few moments to donate online via egive, or fill in our downloadable form on our donations page or phone 1300 133 868 (local call).


Occasional online donations can also be made through Friends of the Earth in multiples of $25.


If you don't require tax deductibility you can make your donation direct to Gene Ethics' bank account:


Account Name: Gene Ethics Ltd
BSB number: 633 108
Account number: 119595643


Once you have made a deposit, please notify us by email of your details.


Thank you for your support.

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Roundtable on Responsible Soy greenwash

04 June 2010

The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) is holding its 5th conference 9-10 June 2010 in Sao Paolo, Brazil. It is expected that the label will be launched in Europe some time after the conference. This is the time to once more voice strong opposition to this greenwashing of industrial soy!

Signatories to date:

international networks:
Food and Water Europe
Friends of the Earth International
Global Forest Coalition

organisations:

ASEED Europe
Corporate Europe Observatory
Econexus
GM Freeze, UK
Soy Alliance, UK
VELT, Belgium
Wervel, Belgium

The undersigned organisations reject the “responsible” label for soy developed by the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS). The attempts by the Round Table on Responsible Soy to greenwash large scale genetically modified (GM) soy production by labelling it as “responsible” will aggravate the problems caused by industrial soy production, instead of providing solutions.

The RTRS is expected to launch its “responsible” label after its conference in June 2010 in Brazil. Industrial soy production has caused rampant social and environmental damage in South America, including habitat destruction, deforestation, destruction of local food production systems, degraded soil fertility, exposure of local people to toxic pesticides and the large scale displacement of local communities and small farming systems.

In the North, large scale soy production has facilitated unprecedented industrialisation of the food chain, increasing reliance on imported animal feed and promoting unsustainable animal production with negative consequences for farming, the environment and people’s health, and encouraging unsustainable consumption patterns. Intensive meat, dairy and egg production is an important contributor to global greenhouses gas emissions , while agrofuels from soy could produce more emissions than fossil fuels.

Multinational companies reap huge financial rewards from this unsustainable production system at both ends.

The RTRS cannot succeed in its stated aims to deliver “responsible” soy because:

1) RTRS lacks support and is not representative

The RTRS claims to be an “international multi-stakeholder initiative” , but in reality the scheme has little or no support from sustainable family farmers, social movements or civil society, either in South America or in Europe. On the contrary the scheme faces strong criticism from these organizations especially in soy producing countries. Furthermore, major players in the Brazilian soy industry – APROSOJA and ABIOVE - have turned their backs on the RTRS due to disagreements on the inclusion of even the very weak deforestation clause (see 2).

2) RTRS criteria are seriously flawed
The RTRS claims to be developing a “responsible” label for mainstream soy, but is based on a wholly inadequate set of principles and criteria. For example:

• GMOs and pesticides
The RTRS will certify genetically modified (GM) soy as responsible. Most soy in South America is genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide Glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as RoundupReady soy). Both GM and non-GM soy are based on monocultures, both have destructive impacts on biodiversity and local communities and both use a range of agrochemicals, but herbicide-resistant soy has higher negative biosafety impacts than non-GM soy, particularly for soil life and fertility. While GM soy is promoted to farmers as a way to reduce labour costs, the continuous and indiscriminate application of herbicides resulting from the use of herbicide-resistant crops has severe impacts on the livelihoods and health of communities living around the soy fields. It has also accelerated the emergence of herbicide resistant weeds, which are a serious problem across thousands of hectares of soy in the US, Argentina and Brazil. This is also forcing a return to using more dangerous pesticides such as 2,4-D (a component of Agent Orange).

• Deforestation and soy expansion
The RTRS criteria for “responsible” soy agreed in May 2009 do not prevent further deforestation. According to the RTRS, “responsible” soy can be grown on land that has been deforested as recently as May 2009. “Responsible” soy can even be grown on land that will be deforested in the future, as long as the producer can provide “scientific evidence” that there were no primary forest, or High Conservation Value Areas (HCVAs), on that land and that it did not affect “local peoples’ land” (which is not further defined).

It is not clear how these flawed criteria will be monitored and enforced.

3) RTRS cannot address macro-level impacts of industrial farming
Importantly, the RTRS cannot address the deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and social conflicts caused by displacing agricultural activities elsewhere (Indirect Land Use Change). Other impacts include rising food prices and huge pressures on land and resources.

4) RTRS claims climate benefits
RTRS “responsible” soy claims to have climate benefits, but would largely supply feed for unsustainable intensive poultry, livestock and agrofuel production. The perverse lobbying at the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen of the RTRS along with biotech giant Monsanto to gain carbon credits for industrial soy production gained them the international Angry Mermaid Award for worst climate lobbying. In the EU, the RTRS is trying to gain accreditation under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) that contains the widely opposed 10% agrofuel target.

Some of the pilot projects of the RTRS involve small scale farming of soy, but this cannot mask the fact that the bulk of the RTRS’s “responsible” soy will be grown on large-scale plantations with heavy pesticide use and no consideration for the local people or the environment. Consumers are currently prevented from seeing the extent of the damage done by industrial (RoundupReady) soy as it happens far from their homes. European supermarkets use the RTRS to claim they are acting responsibly while carrying on with business as usual. Any supermarket that participates in the RTRS risks a backlash from its customers.

To address the impacts outlined above the undersigned organisations demand real solutions that move to a sustainable food production system that include:

• phasing out monoculture production systems and instead promoting agro-ecological systems, diversification of production and stimulation of local production for local markets that contribute to food security and food sovereignty in producer and consumer countries.

• promoting genuine land reforms and land rights in producing countries, which will address highly inequitable land ownership and concentration;

• drastically changing production models and consumption patterns required to feed a population of 9 billion in 2050 sustainably and equitably ; this means reducing the shocking levels of overconsumption and waste in the industrialised world

• abandoning intensive meat, dairy and egg production systems and moving towards low-input livestock systems

• eliminating Europe’s dependency on plant protein imports and support a move towards more low input, grass based livestock systems.

• stopping the promotion of agrofuel production as a climate solution for rich countries and instead developing better transport systems that reduce demand for energy and fuel.


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Review of Gene Technology Regulations - submissions needed by 18 June

02 June 2010

The link below will connect you to the following documents on the OGTR website:


Invitation to make submissions


Draft Gene Technology Amendment Regulations 2010


Overview of the proposals for amendment


Discussion papers for the five areas of proposed amendment:


Classification of exempt dealings


Classification of Notifiable Low Risk Dealings (NLRDs)


Classification of dealings involving viral vectors


Oversight of NLRDs


Timeframes and administrative matters


Questions and Answers on the current review of the Regulations


An unofficial compilation of the proposed amendments


http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/gtr-review


Please let Gene Ethics know if you will make a submission as we'll prepare a draft NGO discussion briefing this week: info@geneethics.org

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GM-free videos - great new online resource

26 May 2010

In addition to listing editor's picks of GM-free videos at http://www.gmwatch.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12211, videos are divided into categories, such as corporations, food safety etc. You can also search according to food/crop category.


Some videos are as short as a few minutes, other run for more than an hour. Each movie is accompanied by an introduction as well as listing the running time.


Happy viewing!

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Food, Inc - doco movie now showing

21 May 2010

Food, Inc. is a riveting award-winning feature-length documentary, which is now showing in limited release around Australia. GM features prominently. Distributed at selected cinemas by Roadshow.


Read a review by SBS TV’s At the Movies, watch a lengthy trailer and view screening details here.


Read an interview with featured bio farmer Joel Salatin in the Weekend Australian magazine


Reviews also in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the West Australian. And on Oprah here.

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EU grain traders warn WA Govt risks markets

05 May 2010 April 27, 2010

In a letter dated February 26 this year, three European grain traders tell WA Premier Barnett they will not buy WA grain if GM canola is grown.

Gene Ethics calls on the WA Parliament to disallow the Government’s exemption from its GM-free Zone laws, so that commercial Roundup tolerant canola would continue to be prohibited as it is in South Australia and Tasmania.

When the Legislative Councillors debate Green MLC Giz Watson's disallowance motion and vote in the next few weeks, they should consider the market losses that will follow GM and resolve to keep WA GM-free.

Adding weight to the European commitment to GM-free is another recent letter to the Premier which renews the commitment of Japanese food co-operatives with 8 million members, to buy only GM-free canola. The Japanese are writing GM-free contracts with South Australian growers, where the government has extended their GM canola ban till 2014.

In Victoria last season, farmers who grew GM-free canola were paid up to $15 per tonne more than farmers with GM. Elders Toepfer and CBH - buyers and marketers of bulk grains - both said they have markets for GM-free in Europe and Japan that would not tolerate GM contaminated supplies. As a result, neither company would buy canola from any receival depot that handled or stored GM to avoid contamination.

The majority of shoppers and farmers want to stay GM-free and the WA Government should comply.

Read the EU grain traders letter and Japanese letter at:
http://www.geneethics.org/resource

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Food labelling review is a con

22 April 2010

The Review of Food Labelling is set to further weaken our lax labelling laws in the interests of transnational corporations that dominate global trade in foods, by using the rhetoric of less regulatory burden on business.


The Review received 6,000 submissions in its first round last November.Country of Origin labelling and the lack of labels on genetically manipulated (GM) foods were often raised. The Review’s issues paper  claims most GM food is labelled – despite exemptions for vegetable oils, starches and sugars; food processing aids and additives; restaurant meals; meat, milk, eggs, honey etc. from animals fed GM feed; plus a 1% threshold for ‘accidental’ GM contamination. In practice, most foods made using GM techniques are unlabelled.


Flagging its hidden agenda, the inquiry’s paper also says: “caution needs to be exercised in order that the development and application of these and other innovative technologies (GM; nanotechnology; irradiation; etc.) are not unduly inhibited.”


Putting new, untried technologies ahead of shoppers’ right to know how food was made and ahead of food safety is unethical. GM foods are among those new ‘Foods Requiring Pre-Market Clearance’ in Standard 1.5. Download the standards here


Novel, GM and irradiated foods must undergo FSANZ pre-market health and safety assessments (not testing) as they contain materials and/or manufacturing processes that have no history of safe use in the human food supply. They should also be labelled, as their novelty and the under-developed safety science, means these foods pose unique risks, not associated with foods that have longer histories of safe use. Australia’s food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), acknowledges lack of certainty about the products of new food technologies, by often amending their scientific data sheets on these foods. Labelling satisfies shoppers' right to know how food was made as well as what's in it.


Codex international food standards require irradiated foods to be labelled with the process of production and this creates a precedent for the products of other new technologies and processes - such as GM and nanotechnology - to also be labelled. Weak labelling is also a restraint of trade that adversely affects free markets, as providing full information to all parties to a transaction is a prerequisite for markets to operate optimally.


So-called free marketeers should embrace, not oppose, full labelling. Scientific American (August 2009) and Nature Biotechnology (volume 27 number 10 October 2009) say the jury is still out on GM crop impacts and GM food safety as GM patent owners refuse to supply the seed and approvals for independent research and do not allow negative evidence to be published. The onus is on GM companies to show their products are safe and to label them. They fail both of these tests.

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Food Fears - labelling, GM and FSANZ

20 April 2010 There's a public inquiry into food labelling, and it opens a Pandora's box of very complex issues. Prawns from China can be labelled 'Made in Australia'! Consumers want more and better labelling, but the food industry wants even fewer rules. And global free trade laws mean truth in content could get worse. Reporter Stephen Crittenden.

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SA - GM-free until at least 2014

20 April 2010 SA commits to GM-free until at least 2014
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The South Australian Labor Government has again made a strong commitment to extending the present ban on genetically manipulated (GM) crops until 2014, at least. GM-free SA was a Rann Government election promise and this is one of
their first actions in this four-year term.

GM-free crops and foods give the South Australian food and wine industry a strong marketing edge. Their promotional campaign will build on the state's clean, green image. With GM-free canola in high demand at premium prices both here and in
overseas markets, SA will be a winner all round.

South Australia will have an edge over WA, Vic and NSW which have foolishly embraced herbicide tolerant GM canola that shoppers refuse to buy.

Gene Ethics' election survey results found detailed ALP government and Greens GM-free policies. Both parties undertook: 'to strictly enforce quarantine laws that
prohibit GM seed from entering South Australia; and to also ban the commercial release of other GM organisms until 2014 at least'. Vigilance at the Victorian border will be needed to Keep GM canola out of the state so a comprehensive exclusion
program should be a priority.

Most importantly, Labor and the Greens will also: 'increase government funding to develop more sustainable farming systems, including organic and GM-free'. There
is an urgent need for this research so that farmers can become less dependent on dwindling reserves of oil and phosphates. Sustainable systems should also restrain input costs for patented seed and proprietary chemicals as ownership and
control of the global commercial seed market intensifies.
With climates changing and world populations burgeoning the transition to sustainable food production systems is a top priority.

See: Rann Government commits to GM-free ahead of March 2010 election:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/06/2838396.htm

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WA's GM-free competitive advantage sacrificed

16 February 2010 Agriculture Minister Redman and Premier Barnett are sacrificing the state's unique competitive advantage and premium prices for GM-free foods available in global canola markets. WA, South Australia and Tasmania are the only reliable exporters of GM-free canola world-wide and we are reaping the rewards.

Most Western Australians, and shoppers in our top five markets overseas - Netherlands, France, Pakistan, Japan and Belgium - want to stay GM-free. We should not side with our main GM competitor Canada against the preferences of our customers. It's just bad business.

The Premier and Minister are misusing their power and shirking their responsibility to maintain GM and GM-free Zones in the state, to protect and promote markets for clean, green, GM-free WA foods.

Gene Ethics calls on all Western Australian parliamentarians to disallow this mad, bad decision when it comes before the parliament for review. The market and feral weed impacts of herbicide tolerant GM canola alone make rejecting the government's canola exemption the only sane option.

Redman's pro-GM decision is no surprise as he has been courted in public and private by Monsanto executives, and staged a two hour GM promotional forum that cost taxpayers about $25,000. He consistently ignores and excludes well-informed critics of GM crops.

Monsanto is the outright winner from this WA government GM escapade. The world's biggest seed company needs new places to peddle its patented GM seed and to hijack its GM-free competitors. The US government is investigating Monsanto's monopolistic behaviour that includes restricting access to non-GM seed, suing farmers who unwittingly grow GM because of contamination and suing companies that make GM-free claims on organic and other food products.

Redman's claims that GM canola will benefit farmers are as ludicrous as Monsanto's 'gold at the end of the rainbow' ads published last week. He has approved the GM equivalent of Windows '95, on the empty promises of more GM crops in the future. Monsanto's Roundup tolerant canola was launched in 1996 yet Australia is only the third country in the world to grow it - after Canada and the USA. The twenty other countries growing canola have just ignored GM varieties, and wisely so.

We expect the parliament will listen to shoppers and food processors and over-rule the cowboys in government who would allow GM canola without restriction or regulation.

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GM Ban Extended in Tasmania

28 May 2009 "Tasmania's GM-free status is a vital factor for our primary producers, helping them realise their full potential in international and interstate markets," Mr Llewellyn said. Gene Ethics Director, Bob Phelps, said: "The ban until 2014 on Genetically Manipulated (GM) crops, animals and microbes is supported by all political parties and the community. We congratulate all Tasmanians on keeping their state GM-free."

American Academy of Environmental Medicine warning on GM Foods
More at: http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html

Natural breeding processes have been safely utilized for the past several thousand years. In contrast, "GE crop technology abrogates natural reproductive processes, selection occurs at the single cell level, the procedure is highly mutagenic and routinely breeches genera barriers, and the technique has only been used commercially for 10 years." Despite these differences, safety assessment of GM foods has been based on the idea of "substantial equivalence" such that "if a new food is found to be substantially equivalent in composition and nutritional characteristics to an existing food, it can be regarded as safe as the conventional food." However, several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.

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