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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Sunday, 6 April 2008
Big Agri into the heart of the NSW ALP govt GM policy despite pecuniary conflicts?
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: nsw govt

The Hon. Ian Michael MACDONALD,  BA(Hons) MLC

Agriculture Minister on public right to know - GM food crops

Media Release from Ian Cohen MLC
2nd April 2008
Agriculture Minister on public right to know:
“I am not giving any undertakings regarding a question from you on this
matter - none whatsoever”.
As allegations of bias continue to emerge in the media against Minister
Macdonald’s expert committee on GM food crops, Upper House Greens MP Ian
Cohen reminds the public of the Minister’s statements in the NSW
Parliament on GM food crop ‘conflict of interest’ issues.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald today reveals more detail on
the potential for bias of committee members, also aired on ABC’s PM
program last week.
“The Herald story today on the bias of expert committee panel members
explains the extreme reluctance of Minister Macdonald to level with the
Parliament last month,” said Mr Cohen.
In response to a question to Ian Macdonald, asked by Mr Cohen, on
whether or not the Minister would table the expert committee’s
disclosures book on direct or indirect pecuniary interests, the Minister
“I am not giving any undertakings regarding a question from you on this
matter - none whatsoever” (Hansard - 05.03.08).
“The Minister told the Parliament that even if a member of the panel
had failed to disclose a pecuniary interest, that ‘it would not
constitute an act that would detract from the decisions of the committee’
(Hansard - 05.03.08).
“So here we have a Minister telling the Parliament that it doesn’t
matter if expert committee recommendations are influenced by the
pecuniary interests of its members. The Minister is treating the
Parliament as his own fiefdom, oblivious that his statements are now on
the public record.
“Even more concerning is the privity clause in the Gene Technology (GM
Moratorium) Act. Section 7A(11) means that no Court or Tribunal in
Australia can review the decision of the Minister’s approval of GMOs. 
“This means that the Minister’s approval is beyond reproach. This is in
direct contradiction with the High Court’s approach to the
constitutionality of privity clauses.
“The Premier must now intervene to reassure the public that decisions
on GM food crops are being made in an informed and impartial manner,”
said Mr Cohen.
 Further Information: Ian Cohen: 0409 989 466 or Nic Clyde: 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


Meanwhile Gene Ethics have also issued this statement:

Network of Concerned Farmers - Media Release  
International legal expert says government not
following International polluter-pays principle 
Sydney, 4 April 2008: At a press conference at NSW Parliament House this morning, the Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) launched a legal briefing on Australian Liability for Damage Caused by Genetically Modified Crops, prepared by international lawyer, Duncan Currie. The briefing explains that Australian governments have adopted a polluted-pays principle rather than a polluter-pays principle for genetically modified crops. Mr Currie recommends urgent legislative changes be introduced to protect non-GM farmers and that GM distributors and GM farmers should bear any costs associated with GM contamination.

International lawyer Duncan Currie said, "It will be extremely difficult for non-GM farmers to protect themselves from the effects of GM contamination and pollution. To ensure they have the best chance of ensuring some recovery, non-GM farmers should give formal letters of notice to their GM growing neighbours that they will not accept any damages as a result of GM contamination."
And that is exactly what the Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) are doing, says Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for NCF, who has been travelling through Victoria, SA and NSW distributing the letter to farmers.
"It is a sad day when state government promote suing neighbours rather than adopting fair risk management. State governments are working against choice for farmers and consumers, and the drive appears to be to promote their own patent investments in GM technology research" said Mrs Newman.

"We are disappointed to expect Australian farmers to tolerate contamination, lose markets and be liable for paying patent fees for using a patented product they don't want," said Ms Newman.

Mr Currie recently participated in the international Liability and Redress Working Group to the Biosafety Protocol (Convention on Biological Diversity) meetings in Cartagena, Columbia in mid March.
The international meeting resolved that there are a number of outstanding concerns with regards to liability for costs arising from the international trade in GMOs and who is liable for costs associated with contamination and other damage from GMOs and how environmental cleanup will be paid for.
"Australian governments are currently acting against principles widely accepted internationally - the polluter pays and the precautionary principles. This means that when non-GM farmers crops are contaminated by GM canola, they will have very limited access to compensation and redress for their loss.  This includes lost market access to countries such as Europe, decreased value of crops, clean up costs, and ongoing testing to demonstrate that crops are non-GM," said Mr Currie
"The Australian Government should participate constructively in the International Biosafety Protocol liability and redress negotiations. It should use this process to ensure that rules, procedures and a backup fund are put in place to address these issues consistently and effectively on a national and international scale," concluded Mr Currie.
More information:
National Spokesperson, Network of Concerned Farmers, Julie Newman +61 427 711 644
Lawyer, Globelaw International Environmental and Transnational Law, Duncan Currie + 64 21 632 335 (mobile) +64 3 384 6977 (landline)
And similarly this information package from Gene Ethics (Melbourne based):
Gene Ethics - News Media Release

Melbourne, April 3 2008: New Swedish research just published confirms that GM canola contamination will be permanent and irreversible. GM canola is a weed as its seed can lie dormant and germinate up to 10 years after it is planted on a site.

"Even worse, scientists confirm that GM canola will transfer Roundup herbicide tolerance to related brassicas that are already troublesome weeds in Australian environments," says Gene Ethics Director Bob Phelps.

"Wild radish, wild turnip and charlock that get the GM gene for Roundup resistance will be superweeds that will be expensive for farmers, councils, park managers, and gardeners to manage.

"Weed management costs Australia $3-4 billion pa already, money that is sorely needed to restore our degraded environments.

"Yet the Victorian and NSW governments have ended their GM bans, allowing Monsanto and Bayer to sell seed from the plant equivalent of the cane toad.

"These governments should reimpose their bans on GM canola as the costs outweigh any conceivable benefits.

"Australia's Office of Gene Technology Regulator was fully aware of this weed problem, yet issued licences in 2003 for the unrestricted commercial release of herbicide tolerant GM canola seed.
http://www.ogtr.gov.au/pdf/ir/brassica.pdf Pages 9 & 25
Professor Mark Westoby's comments at: http://www.aussmc.org/GMseedpersistance.php confirm the need for the OGTR to publicly reassess the licences for herbicide tolerant GM canola before it is allowed to be sold anywhere," Mr Phelps concludes.

More comment: Bob Phelps 03 9347 4500


GM seeds can 'last for 10 years'
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Protest. Image: AP
France has recently seen street protests against GM crops

Seeds of some genetically modified crops can endure in soil for at least 10 years, scientists have discovered.

Researchers in Sweden examined a field planted with experimental oilseed rape a decade ago, and found transgenic specimens were still growing there.

This was despite intensive efforts in the intervening years to remove seeds.

No GM crop has been found to endure so long; and critics say it shows that genetically modified organisms cannot be contained once released.

Tina D'Hertefeldt from Lund University led the team of scientists that scoured the small field which had hosted the GM trial 10 years ago looking for "volunteers" - plants that have sprung up spontaneously from seed in the soil.

"We were surprised, very surprised," she told BBC News. "We knew that volunteers had been detected earlier, but we thought they'd all have gone by now."

Eradication effort

Presenting their findings in the journal Biology Letters, the researchers note that after the trial of herbicide-resistant GM rape, the Swedish Board of Agriculture sprayed the field intensively with chemicals that should have killed all the remaining plants.

And for two years, inspectors looked specifically for volunteer plants and killed them.

We should assume that GM organisms cannot be confined, and ask instead what will become of them when they escape
Professor Mark Westoby
This is much more effort than would usually be deployed on a normal farmer's field.

But even so, 15 plants had sprung up 10 years later carrying the genes that scientists had originally inserted into their experimental rape variety to make them resistant to the herbicide glufosinate.

Non-GM varieties were used in the 10-year-old study as well, and some of these had also survived.

"I wouldn't say that the transgenic varieties are able to survive better," said Dr D'Hertefeldt. "It's just that oilseed rape is a tough plant."

Jeremy Sweet, a former head of the UK's National Institute of Agricultural Botany and now an independent consultant on biotech crops, agreed.

"It's been known for some time that oilseed rape is a bit of a problem because of the survival of its seed," he told BBC News.

"It means that if farmers want to swap [from growing GM rape] to conventional varieties, they will have to wait for a number of years."

Growth industry

Rapeseed - often known by its Canadian name canola - is the fourth most commonly grown GM crop in the world, after soya beans, maize and cotton.

An industry organisation, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), calculated recently that more than one million square kilometres of land across the world are now dedicated to growing GM plants.

Europe accounts for only about 0.1% of that total, with a single maize variety the single transgenic food plant being grown.

Many European countries, including the UK, have yet to implement legislation on the thorny issue of how fields of genetically modified crops could co-exist with others that farmers are keen to keep free of transgenic material.

The Lund research does not deal with the flow of genes into neighbouring fields, or whether transgenes can transfer into wild plants growing nearby.

But Tina D'Hertefeldt believes legislators do need to take note of her findings.

"What we are saying is they also need to take into account the temporal aspect," she said.

Professor Mark Westoby, a plant ecologist from Macquarie University in Australia, had a more blunt assessment.

"This study confirms that GM crops are difficult to confine," he said.

"We should assume that GM organisms cannot be confined, and ask instead what will become of them when they escape."


Posted by editor at 1:25 PM NZT
Updated: Monday, 7 April 2008 2:26 PM NZT

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