Gillard and Abbott fail on GM but Greens back precautionary principle

12 August 2010

Thursday, 12 August, 2010: Gene Ethics’ 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, which most people want, will be crucial if they hold the balance of power in the next parliament,” says Gene Ethics Executive Director, Bob Phelps.

“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”(1). Also in 2007, the ALP conference supported the “comprehensive labelling of genetically modified food” (2).

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 to 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.”

“Neither the ALP nor Coalition will act on real community concerns about GM food and farms so the voters must send a clear message to them at the ballot box,” Mr Phelps concludes.

See all the survey responses, letters and policies on GM at:

Further information or interviews: Vivienne Reiner, Gene Ethics media officer: (02) 9440 3545, 0432 352 132

1. Labor’s Plan for Primary Industries, p.20, 2007.
2. ALP National Platform and Constitution, Chapter Twelve - Ensuring Community Security and
Access to Justice, para. 99, 2007.

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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