8 May 2003

Australia rejects GE food crops

For immediate release

Sydney, Australia, Thursday 8th May 2003: Australia will remain free from genetically engineered (GE) food crops for at least another year, following the announcement today of a freeze on the commercial release of GE canola, by yet another state government.

The twelve month freeze by the southern state of Victoria, now means all major Australian canola growing states have imposed some form of moratorium on the commercial release of the country's first proposed GE food crop, for 2003.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner John Hepburn said, "Despite the failure of our national regulatory system, state governments have thankfully listened to the majority of farmers and to the general community who are opposed to the introduction of GE canola".

The Victorian decision comes as a major blow to applicants Monsanto and Bayer, who have lobbied strongly for the release of their GE canola products. As one of the world's largest exporters of canola, Australia is seen as a key area for expansion of GE crops, which are reported to be struggling to find acceptance outside North America and Argentina.  

"Australia currently only allows the commercial planting of GE cotton and GE carnations", Mr Hepburn said. "However, canola is proposed as the first commercially grown GE food crop in this country".

Greenpeace says that consumer rejection of GE foods in Australia continues to grow. "Studies consistently show that up to 70% of Australians are concerned about eating GE food", Mr Hepburn said. "And many major Australian food companies have responded by removing GE from their supply chains".

"Strong opposition to GE canola has also emerged from conventional and organic farmers", Mr Hepburn continued, "and from some of Australia's largest grain groups, including the Australian Wheat Board and Barley Board - who are concerned about contamination of export crops, identity preservation costs and liability issues".

Mr Hepburn described the national freeze on GE canola as "a victory for common sense". "GE crops are a pariah both domestically and on world markets. It is not in Australia's economic interest to introduce GE canola, nor is it in the interests of the community", Mr Hepburn said. "GE food crops are clearly unnecessary, unnatural and unwanted".
Communications Officer: Ellen Stuebe    + 61 2 9263 0326
Campaigner:  John Hepburn    + 61 407 231 172
Campaigner:             Jeremy Tager    + 61 438 679 263
Victoria May Ban GM Food Crops for 12 Months, Weekly Times Says
By Jason Gale
Melbourne, May 7 (Bloomberg) -- The Victorian government may ban the release of genetically modified food crops for a year while the state considers issues relating to storage and handling and contamination, the Weekly Times said, citing a farm lobby.

The possibility of a moratorium, which would stall sales of Bayer AG's gene-altered canola in Victoria, has been raised at the past two meetings of senior state government lawmakers, the report said.

John Brumby, Victoria's state and regional development minister, declined to comment, according to the newspaper. Victorian Farmers Federation President Paul Weller said the government would probably make an announcement this week.  ``We've put the case continually that our farmers need to have access to the latest technology,'' the report quoted Weller as saying.

The possible sale restrictions come after Australia's biotechnology regulator last month released a plan for public comment on the commercial release of genetically modified canola, moving the nation's A$10 billion ($6 billion) grain industry a step closer to its first GM food crop.

Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer and St. Louis-based Monsanto are seeking the commercial release of canola that's been genetically modified to make it tolerant to certain herbicides.