Anti-GM foods lobby gains momentum
The West Australian, 11 June 2008
PERTH - There have been renewed calls for the State Government to retain its moratorium on growing genetically modified (GM) crops.
Members of the WA Conservation Council and members of the Japanese Consumers Union today presented a 20,000-strong petition to WA Agriculture and Food Minister Kim Chance.
The petition voices concerns over the safety and environmental impacts of GM foods.
Japan is the State's largest customer for canola and cereal crops, with the industry valued at $550million per year.
The country currently imports about 146,000 tonnes of canola from WA - representing about 50 per cent of Australia's export canola.
Ten members of the Japanese Consumers Union, which has 3 million members, travelled to WA this week to meet representatives of the State's farming community and Perth consumers to discuss market advantages of producing non GM crops.
The group's spokeswoman Michiyo Koketsu said the union previously bought canola from Canada until they began growing GM varieties and she hoped Australia did not follow that path.
"Japanese consumers have voiced a strong preference for non-GM products and the union currently imports the majority of canola from Australia because of its non-GM status," Ms Koketsu said.
"If WA was to lift the moratorium and allow GM crops to be commercially grown we may no longer be able to import canola from the state."
Mr Chance said the State Government had no plans to remove the 10-year moratorium on GM foods and had called on the Federal Government and Food Standards Australia to tighten food labelling and increase health awareness on GM foods.
"On a multinational basis our valued customers in Japan and our valued Australian customers are saying there is a very clear rejection of GM foods," Mr Chance said.
"The State Government is taking this very seriously and at a bear minimum will continue to call for renewed labelling on GM foods to better inform consumers and give them a choice."
Last week WA Premier Alan Carpenter called for the nationwide suspension of approvals for foods from engineered crops until more health research was carried out.