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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Thursday, 14 February 2008
Genetic Engineering of food crops opposed by large slice of civil society
Mood:  rushed
Topic: ecology

The famous Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki was a world class geneticist until he got into the history of his discipline. As he tells it (from memory via ABC radio national in the dim mists of time) he found that the leading scientists of the early 20C were pretty much gungho eugenicists and probably racists. As we understood his reflections it was carthartic and he decided to redirect his enormous talents not least advocacy into ecological sustainability.

So we thought of Suzuki when we saw the above advert (7th Feb 2008 p5 The Australian) which manifests a very serious disagreement even into the agri business and global commerce as explain here in the Big Media:

GM ban bolsters state split | The Australian 9th Feb 2008


             SA's GM crop ban divides the State
11 February 2008

The issues are further expounded here:

Media Release from Ian Cohen MLC
Friday 8 February, 2008
South Australia – new homeland for NSW canola farming refugees?
Mike Rann is to be congratulated for today extending South
Australia’s moratorium against the growing of genetically modified
food crops.
“Mike Rann’s decision today in favour of an indefinite extension of
their moratorium cuts straight through the GM industry spin coming from
Ian Macdonald’s office here in NSW,” said Upper House Greens MP Ian
“They have extended their moratorium because they are concerned about
the damage to their agricultural sector that GM food crops represent.
“They want to maintain their clean green image, which their
Government recognises is critical to the marketing of South
Australia’s food and wine products.
“If it’s critical in SA, why isn’t it critical in NSW?
“The South Australian Premier’s press release also demolishes an
argument repeatedly put to the Parliament here about price premiums for
GM free crops.
“Ian Macdonald told the Upper House on the 28th November last year
that ‘Australia is, in fact, not achieving price premiums for bulk
non-GM canola in the international marketplace’ .
“Mike Rann today quotes ABARE as indicating ‘that in some of this
season’s markets there were significant premiums for GM-free
“Farmers in NSW should pay close attention to what happened today in
“Our farmers have been hung out to dry by the NSW ALP, by the Liberal
Party and worst of all by their own people - the Nationals.
“SA’s Agriculture Minister is right to warn that ‘we must be
mindful that there’s simply no turning back once the moratorium has
been lifted’,” said Mr Cohen.
Further Information: Ian Cohen: 0409 989 466 or Nic Clyde on 0417 742

Nic Clyde
Adviser, Greens MLC Ian Cohen
Macquarie Street, Sydney, 2000
Tel: +61-2-9230 3305, Fax: +61-2-9230 2267
Mobile: 0417 742 754
Web: www.iancohen.org.au


Media Release from Ian Cohen MLC
Tuesday 5th February 2008
Legal advice torpedoes protection for GM-free farmers
New legal advice obtained by Greens MP Ian Cohen warns that biotech
companies will still be able to sue NSW farmers for patent infringement
despite the so-called ‘legal liability’ protections negotiated by
the Coalition at the end of last year.
“Our advice is that the Gene Technology (GM Crop Moratorium)
Amendment Act 2007 will not protect NSW farmers against patent
infringement actions that may be pursued by biotech companies.
“Whilst the amendments will provide some cover for farmers in NSW
courts, it will provide none against the Patents Act which is
enforceable through the Federal Court.
“Farmers were relying on the Opposition to make sure they were
protected by a solid legal liability regime. Instead, they buckled under
the Government’s pressure and now farmers are left with a legal Swiss
cheese standing between them and the biotech multinationals.
“The Coalition told the Upper House in November of last year that
their amendment would ‘ensure that if a non-GM grower gets GM material
on his property, he will not be liable to prosecution as a result’.
Clearly this is a promise they were never able to make and cannot keep.
“It’s no surprise that a Rural Press survey of farmers in October
of last year found that only 27% want the option of growing GM grain
crops. Farmers tell us this is because farm gate benefits remain
unproven and legal liability issues have not been sorted out. In
addition, the community tell us they don’t want to eat GM foods.
“Farmers have been sold a dud with these GM canola amendments. The
crop is famous for the promiscuous pollination that makes segregation
from GM-free product impossible. Unfortunately our major party
politicians are equally infamous for their promiscuous pollination of
bad legislation.
“The moral majority are right on this one – the only way to protect
against GM foods is to ‘just say no’,” said Mr Cohen.
Further Information: Ian Cohen: 0409 989 466 or Nic Clyde on 0417 742

Which leaves us to ask - What would David Suzuki think about all this as surely one you might trust on such science and ecological concerns of cane toad like GE super weeds jumping fences, hybridising with wild plants, over leaping species boundaries with unknown ripple effects in the very chemistry of life at protein and amino acid level replicated off the DNA itself, of terminator genes annexing farmers to multinational dependence. Even the CSIRO seems to be embroiled in hosting a debate on this matter.


Next best source would be Bob Phelps of the Gene Ethics Network in this debate for 20 years as per Online Opinion listing:



Bob Phelps, Bob Phelps is Director of the GeneEthics Network. Author's website: GenEthics Network

We need to take five and consider the future of our GE-free reputation
Environment - 13/08/2003
US genetic engineering on the skids
Science & Technology - 15/11/2001

Generically Manipulated Optimism: fast track for GMOs
October 2000 Feature - 15/10/2000


We managed to contact Bob Phelps and our interpretation of the situation on the real politik dynamic is:

  • There are contrived monopolies being contructed with Big Agri Industry parallel movement of 1. $300M private equity (including names like Cornish in a recent Stock & Land, found in Victoria) are gearing up to go on an acquisition crusade, with 2. vertical integration of farming by such as Dow, Bayer and Monsanto to control seed availability and screw the family farmer that way.
  • truth telling scientists like John Williams, as a member of the Wentworth Group, and Maartin Stapper recently sacked from CSIRO allegedly for speaking out on GE, allegedly being suppressed (?). More detail The People versus Victoria | newmatilda.com 13 June 2007 by Katherine Wilson

On the pro-GM side was State Treasurer and Innovations Minister John Brumby, a fierce GM food advocate. Below him was Agriculture Minister Joe Helper, by name and nature. Rubbing shoulders with them were Premier Steve Bracks, CSIRO, the DPI, and most of the media.

A complex of industry lobbyists followed including the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and their PR arms, like the IPA's Australian Environment Foundation (not to be confused with the citizen-supported Australian Conservation Foundation). Driving these were multinationals Bayer and Monsanto, leading the vastly-funded gene technology industry.

And on it went. A squad of vocal scientists in receipt of GM funds were plotted alongside the panel appointed to review the bans. On the panel: the lovable Sir Gus Nossal, who has spoken cautiously in support of GM food crops, and Merna Curnow, who represents the pro-GM Grains Research Development Corporation. (Not much is known about the third panelist, Christine Forster.)

Finally, there was Australia's Chief Scientist, the formidable Jim Peacock: friend of John Howard, founder of GM companies, lodger of contentious GM patents, who recently called those opposing GM foods 'self-serving unprincipled minorities.'

If the whiteboard's pro-GM camp reeked of fiscal and political power, the GM-free side had people power. Celebrity chefs Margaret Fulton, Charmaine Solomon, Maggie Beer and Stefano Di Pieri sat alongside nutritionist and biochemist Dr Rosemary Stanton, epidemiologist Dr Judy Carman, medical scientist Professor Stephen Leeder, and erstwhile CSIRO soil scientist Dr Maarten Stapper, who claimed to have been sacked for speaking out about the dangers of GM crops.

Supporting them were health and environment groups and, well, most people. In every poll taken to date, the public is overwhelmingly opposed to GM food. So are an even larger majority of polled farmers, who don't want GM food crops.

Finally, there were allies like celebrated geneticist Dr David Suzuki, who has said: 'Any scientist or politician who tells you [GM] foods are safe is either very stupid or lying.'

  • Premier Brumby in Victoria is a crude 'economic development at any cost' dinosaur as per this [PDF] media release Brumby's GM canola: doomed to fail 5th Feb 2008, just like the blind faith in the growth fetish driving highly controversial dredging in Port Phillip Bay for super container ships (echoing Iemma in NSW at Botany Bay).
  • Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits by Big Agri against independent farmers in North America who try and buck the stitch up, or unlucky farmers who get contaminated by GE crops, have been rife in the USA with confidentiality settlement agreements. Refer  Monsanto vs Schmeiser, with Percy Schmeiser, a real cropping expert with his own wikipedia entry 


      Monsanto vs Schmeiser
The Classic David vs Goliath Struggle...


  • The European Union have maintained a ban on GE foods apparently as per this report in the New York Times late 2006 which closes down our market there if we go GE

Both Sides Cite Science to Address Altered Corn By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL A proposal to ban the planting of a genetically modified corn strain sets up a bitter war within the European Union. December 26, 2007

  • Have no doubt about it, big money politics is in play here as per Katherine Wilson referenced above:

So when GeneEthics (a network of farmers, scientists, foodies and concerned citizens) failed to get studies showing negative impacts of GM into media reports, its supporters raised enough money to buy a series of advertisements in the Grains Research and Development Council's magazine, Ground Cover. After publishing one ad, Ground Cover, dependent on big agribusiness dollars, cancelled five subsequent GeneEthics ads. 'The GRDC is funded by farmers and taxpayers, yet we can't even buy space in their journal. This was the only way of reaching an audience of 50,000 graingrowers,' said GeneEthics executive director Bob Phelps. As Jeffrey Smith's Seeds of Deception documents, this is the norm for scientists worldwide who attempt to publish research showing the negative impacts of GM. The free market of ideas, says Phelps, is free not just to those who can afford it, but to those who agree with it.


Posted by editor at 7:17 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 15 February 2008 5:16 AM EADT

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