Western Australia to Grow GM Crops

In November 2009 we published a letter from a UK scientific organisation to Mr Colin Barnett. The letter expressed concern for academic freedom over GM foods in WA (click here)  The letter stated

In 2005, the Government of Western Australia awarded a research grant worth $92,000 to researchers at the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, now based in Adelaide, Southern Australia. In announcing it, the then Agriculture Minister, Kim Chance, said that "the WA Government will fund an independent long-term animal feeding trial to gain data on the safety or otherwise of GM food crops

The present Minister of Agriculture, Terry Redman, is now interfering in the research by demanding details about the location of the study laboratories, its research protocols and its progress to date. It is hard to see any legitimate reason for this interference. Information about the procedures was available when the grant was proposed, and it is most unusual for a government or indeed anyone else to demand to see the results of work that is not yet completed. The Minister’s hostility to the line of research is well known from when he was in opposition; he is wrong to use his current position to obstruct science which was commissioned before he took office.

The new WA Government has now rejected a research study that was not completed and has approved the growing of commercial genetically modified canola crops in WA
 
 In the Opinion column of The West Australian 28th Jan 2010 Kim Chance minister for agriculture and food from 2001 to 2008 in the Gallop and Carpenter governments makes the following points

Of the 400 submissions received during the legislative review of the Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Act 2003, less than 10 per cent supported the lifting of the GM crop ban (DEA made a submission click here)
 
Australia is one of the few sources of canola for export and has been the only dependable source of non-GM canola. Since Victoria and NSW lifted their moratoriums on commercial GM canola production, WA and South Australia were the only large canola suppliers in the world where importers could access non-GM canola on a reasonably reliable basis. The WA Government’s strange decision this week effectively reverses that advantage’

The justification used by the Government for lifting the ban seems to be based on what it calls the success of commercial GM canola trials during the 2009 season. Given that these trials were designed only to determine if GM canola could be segregated from non-GM canola, the success of the trials can, at best, be described as relevant only to the growing of the crop under the highly specific protocols that applied to the trials, not to the unrestricted growing of the crop that will be permitted as a result of this week’s decision. Importantly, the 2009 trials did not specifically set out to determine the comparative economic performance of GM versus non-GM varieties. The only comprehensive and independent comparative trials have been the Grains Research and Development Corporation National Variety Trials 2008 in NSW and Victoria which did not indicate any compelling advantage from the GM varieties.

The most recent Newspoll survey on this issue was conducted among a representative sample of 300 West Australians, including 216 main grocery buyers last November. The poll found 61 per cent would not buy GM food. This sentiment is reflected in the decision of major Australian food companies such as Coles, IGA, Foodland, Tablelands (Peerless), Flora (Unilever) and Meadow Lea (Goodman Fielder) to reject the use of GM ingredients in their own brand products.

There is a lot at stake here for a very narrow spectrum of people, principally the owners of the technology and those who benefit from the research grants that they distribute. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a company aggressively marketing its product and influencing others to support its point of view. There is something very wrong when the consumers of the product are denied access to the truth about the product

The Minister was interviewed on RN PM program on Jan 28  click here
The interview should be read by all

There can be no explanation for this decision. It had to be based on ideology and a dismissal of science.

TERRY REDMAN (Minister): The taxpayers of Western Australia have put up in this case $92,000 three years ago now, and I really haven't seen anything that gives me assurance for the Western Australian public that those funds have been used appropriately and indeed have done something. (The study was terminated before it was completed!)

This decision increases concern that the states are not capable of managing important complex matters. In the spheres of water, health services, education, urban planning and transport their role is being eroded after long-standing inefficiencies. Nor has this transfer of power been limited to Federal Labor Governments. It is difficult to imagine the role of state governments in 20 years time—as one wag said “their only role will be to make trouble" David Shearman.

Letter from George Crisp published in the West Australian 30 January
Dear Editor,
Fundamental concerns must be addressed before allowing widespread cultivation, consumption and contamination of GM crops.
We do not know if they are safe for human health.
That is because no human studies have been done, anywhere, ever.
Governments depend on regulatory bodies such as FSANZ, which in turn rely on industry-conducted animal studies, limited in design and short term.
Independent animal studies have been lacking because of restricted funding and access to GM material. But those that have been done suggest increased allergy, organ damage and other adverse effects.
Regulators here and overseas have taken the view, known as "substantive equivalence", that if non GM-products are safe and their counterparts seem compositionally similar, then they too are likely to be safe.
That is bad science.
We should have independent, adequately powered, long term animal studies able to determine safety.
It is simply not good enough to play Russian roulette with our health.