- Current Issues
- Take Action
- Bills Introduced 2012
- Bills debated
- Budget Estimates Hearings
- Committee Reports
- Disallowance Motions
- Guide to Petitions
- How we can help
- Learn About Parliament
- Motions Debated
- Questions on Notice
- Questions without Notice 2009
- Questions without Notice 2010
- Questions without Notice 2011
Lynn’s speech, Food Alert Forum
Put simply, the Greens want to keep Western Australia free from genetically modified (GM) crops in our ecosystems and food supply. We oppose the release of GM crops into the environment, because of the failure of the genetic engineering industry to demonstrate that it is operating safely and ethically.
We’d like a moratorium on growing GM crops and would also like food containing GM ingredients to be clearly labelled to protect consumer choice.
There has yet to be an informed public debate in Australia about GM crops. Our industry and regulators have framed the issue as one for experts. Unless you have a PhD in genetic engineering you are not entitled to have a view on the subject. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone that eats – which I reckon is just about all of us - should be entitled to have a say about what goes into our food.Another tactic of the GM crop industry is to brand people and groups raising concerns about GM crops as anti-science luddites. The reality is quite the opposite. We are completely supportive of good science – in fact we are the only ones upholding the science in this debate.
There is a huge amount of disinformation put out by the GM crop industry to try to convince the Australian public that GM crops are inevitable and indeed essential to cope with the challenges of climate change and a growing world population. I’d like to deal with a few of these claims just now.
Myth 1: We need GM crops to feed the world
This is a mantra that we hear issued time and time again, but how exactly will GM crops feed the world?
A 5 year UN study – the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which involved 400 leading scientists, – looked at the very problem of how to feed the world. The study, which concluded in 2009, found that GM crops are not a priority for feeding the world.
For a start, despite the industry rhetoric, there is no evidence that GM crops increase yields. A 2009 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Failure to Yield, reviewed the academic literature and concluded that genetically modifying herbicide-tolerant soybeans and herbicide-tolerant corn has not increased yields. Insect-resistant corn, meanwhile, has improved yields only marginally. Likewise the Australian National Variety Trials showed GM canola yields no better than conventional canola.
The UN IAASTD report also raised concerns about the patents associated with GM crops. GM crops are actually likely to aggravate the hunger problem and indebtedness of farmers, because they require high investments in expensive seeds and pesticides. Most importantly of all, the introduction of GM seeds will mean that farmers can no longer save their own seed to replant in subsequent years, as they have been doing for many generations.
Myth 2: We need drought and salt tolerant GM crops
There is no such thing as a drought or salt tolerant gene. The reality is that these traits involve multiple genes and are much more easily developed using non-GM techniques such as marker assisted selection. The only reason that the GM crop industry wants to use genetic modification to develop these traits is so that it can patent the resulting crops and make more money.
Most worryingly, the overemphasis on GM - due to collaborations between research institutions and GM crop companies - is diverting money away from other more valuable research into sustainable agriculture techniques.
Myth 3: All our competitors are doing it - we are being left behind
This was the justification made for lifting the GM canola ban in WA. However 79 per cent of the world's canola is non-GM. Canada and the US are the only broad-scale producers of GM canola. Europe is the world’s largest canola producer and decided not to adopt GM canola because of widespread community opposition to GM crops and concerns about the biodiversity impacts of GM canola
Despite all the hype, the majority of the world is still GM free. 90 per cent of GM crops are confined to just 5 countries: the US, Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada.
Australia is currently at a crossroads. Whilst GM canola has already been introduced in WA it is not too late to protect our markets, health and environment and to reinstate the GM ban. At the very least we should have mechanisms in place to hold GM crop companies strictly liable for any damage caused by their products. And this includes economic damage caused to non-GM farmers such as Steve Marsh here.