Deal over GM law a 'disaster'
By GEOFF STRONG
Thursday 7 December 2000
The Federal Government and Opposition have combined forces to pass new laws on genetic modification in a deal producing amendments that have angered the Democrats and Greens.
Labor claims it has forced the Government to agree to include in the bill a legal mechanism known as the "precautionary principle", which would preclude the release of any GM organism or technology until it is known to be safe.
During the debate green groups have argued strongly for this principle. But the minor parties claim the amendment agreed to for the Gene Technology Bill 2000 is significantly watered down, leaving out references to human health and including a provision that environmental protection measures be "cost effective."
Now a cross section of groups including the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Organic Federation are describing the compromise as a sell-out and a disaster.
The bill, which is due to be finally debated and expected to be passed by the Senate tonight, has been through a lengthy process of debate in both houses including two committee reports.
Greens call on eastern Europe to reject GM foods
BELGIUM: December 8, 2000 [shortened]
BRUSSELS - Environmentalists who successfully steered public tastes in western Europe away from genetically modified (GM) foods said on Thursday they would now target the former communist countries of eastern Europe.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) said it would launch a public awareness campaign in countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic that are hoping to join the European Union in the next few years to rouse political support against new food technologies.
"We think the central and eastern European countries are being bulldozed by biotech multinationals and we should make them aware of the enormous potential they have for (growing) organic foods," FoE's Gill Lacroix told a news conference in Brussels.
The green group said the issue could become an important part of the process of EU enlargement which is currently being prepared by EU leaders at a summit in Nice, France. Environmental consultant Tommy Schweiger said EU candidate countries should refuse to accept automatically the GM products already authorised through the EU's testing procedure and demand a new risk assessment in their own countries.
Although countries joining the EU have to accept the large body of EU legislation - including rules on agriculture, food safety and the environment - Schweiger said they could ask for transitional arrangements to refuse GM products accepted by the rest of the EU while new tests were performed.
Environmentalist groups oppose GM plants because of the risk of cross-pollination with traditional species and possible damage to the eco-system.