by Janet Grogan 14 July 2007
Green Left Online
Three years after extending its moratorium on the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) crops, the Victorian ALP government appears poised to remove the ban when it expires in February 2008.
State agriculture minister Joe Helper believes that Victoria is now “open-minded” about GM crops and a “careful and considered approach” will be used to determine the impact of GM crops on the market before a decision is made.
Farmers’ groups are split. The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has been lured by promises of increased yields for less expense, but the Network of Concerned Farmers sees an erosion of choice for non-GM farmers, with up to 10% additional costs to cover segregation bills alone. The United Dairy Farmers of Victoria voted on June 19 to reverse their support for Victoria’s ban on commercial GM canola. In response, consumer groups say that they will vote with their feet and choose non-GM soy or organic alternatives if the ban is lifted.
If Victoria does remove its ban, the pressure will be on other states to follow. In WA, there is a push to make GM cotton exempt from the moratorium. Opponents see it as a Trojan Horse that will serve to pave the way for GM canola and other crops.
In WA, the Say No to GMO campaign has brought together the Conservation Council of WA, the Organic Growers Association and the Network of Concerned Consumers. A petition asking that the GM moratorium be extended 10 years beyond 2008 has gathered almost 4000 signatures and was recently tabled in parliament.
This type of consumer-led resistance is evident across the country. As Phelps explained, “The citizen campaign to keep Victoria GM-free is even stronger since the turnaround as their foolish decision is based on empty promises about the profit potential of GM canola”.
With outstanding issues to consider such as segregation, contamination, liability, labeling, consumer rejection, health, environment and economics, one has to wonder why we are even having this debate.