Bendigo calls for genetic engineering ban

BLINDING self-interest is the only motivation behind the Victorian Government’s insistence on pushing genetically modified farming on to central Victoria, Bendigo Mayor David Jones said yesterday.

‘‘The people who think the science is in on genetic engineering are the very same people who think the science is not in on climate change,’’ Cr Jones said.

‘‘We need to send a strong message to all sides of politics.’’ Cr Jones said the City of Greater Bendigo Council will sponsor a forum on Friday, bringing together farmers, scientists and anti-GM activists to highlight the impact of introducing genetically modified canola crops to central Victoria since a government moratorium was lifted six months ago. Previously The Advertiser has reported a decrease in plantings of canola, generally, in central Victoria due to dry weather conditions.

Cr Jones said lifting the moratorium was even more frustrating because central Victoria has so few canola growers, but it has a growing organic food sector, as well as conventional farming industries, whose markets would be seriously affected by contamination from GM farming nearby.

‘‘This council strongly opposes the relaxation of controls on GM farming,’’ Cr Jones said.

‘‘We applied for exclusion for this region to both state and federal governments, but this was denied, about a month ago.

‘‘It’s very important we keep issues, such as this, alive,’’ he said.

Bendigo GE Free Group is also concerned about the long-term impact on Australia’s organic reputation and international GM free accreditation, which it will feature at Friday’s forum. Pancake Parlour director Samantha Meadmore will also address the forum. Ms Meadmore said she supports much broader discussion on the issue of genetically modified food and said her Melbourne restaurant chain was one of a growing number of food outlets making a declaration of being GM free to highlight the importance of the issue to its consumers.

Other speakers will include Dr Maarten Stapper, former CSIRO research scientist and agronomist, who will discuss GM potential to fix soil salinity and acidity, as well as its other impacts on the environment.

Australian Grain Harvesters Association’s Victorian spokesman Graeme Mulholland will discuss harvest, supply chain issues, transport and storage arrangements for GM crops, and the risks of contamination and liability. Victorian Apiarists Association member Graham Connell will address the impact of genetically modified crops on beekeepers, while Francis Murrell and Jessica Harrison from the Mothers Are Demystifying GE group, will examine the need for GM labeling to ensure people have the choice not to eat genetically modified foods.

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