Lobby groups push to stop GM legislation change

Lobby groups push to stop amendments to the gene technology act

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Australian grain growers have access to genetically modified canola varieties.

Australian grain growers have access to genetically modified canola varieties.

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Groups against genetic modification continue to lobby Australian politicians to stop controversial amendments to the Gene Technology Act.

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LOBBY groups against genetic modification have rallied hard in an attempt to stop controversial amendments to the Gene Technology Act.

The changes would mean alterations in what is required to be reported to the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) and has particular implications in regards to the use of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology.

CRISPR technology, dubbed 'GM-Lite' in some quarters, involves removing unwanted traits from the DNA sequence of a plant, animal or microbe or inserting a new beneficial gene trait.

While there has been support from many corners of agriculture for the amendments there have been a number of groups ramping up their push to block its passing.

Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps said the amendments were irresponsible and would lead to a 'free-for-all' without appropriate boundaries and warned legislators that if they allowed the current motion to pass it would lead to scandals similar to those seen in the banking and aged care sectors.

"The government's deregulation would allow the release of genetically modified (GM) organisms into our food supply and environment without testing or expert assessment," Mr Phelps said.

"Scientists and industry know the new GM methods are flawed but ambition, short-sightedness and profit motives drive them to back deregulation despite the hazards, risks and costs to others."

"Sidelining the Regulator before the new GM game even begins would create a free for all where industry and science players can make up their own rules, without independent oversight.

"Trying to remedy the harm and wrongs that premature deregulation does is time consuming, ineffective and enormously expensive, as seen with aged care and banking and premature GM deregulation would be the same.

The organic sector was also working to stop the changes to the Act.

Chair of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) Glenn Schaube says he feels the organic sector is being treated like a sacrificial lamb to allow deregulation of GM technology.

Chair of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) Glenn Schaube says he feels the organic sector is being treated like a sacrificial lamb to allow deregulation of GM technology.

Chair of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) Glenn Schaube said while GM organisms may be of tremendous benefit to medical sciences their uncontrolled release was a bad thing for the organic industry.

"Because our markets demand GMO free food, their uncontrolled and unmonitored release into the environment, agriculture and domestic food supply are a disaster for Australia's organic industry,' Mr Schaube said.

He said undisclosed GM releases meant the organic sector could not reassure people that Australian produced food was GM free and that it met the standards of key trading partners.

"We are shocked the $3 billion dollar organic industry is being used like a sacrificial lamb for GMO deregulation."

The groups have also enlisted international help.

The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), a group with links to discredited European GM researcher Giles Séralini, has written to all Australian senators urging them to disallow the amendments.

A disallowance motion has been filed by Greens senator Janet Rice.

One of the signatories was well-known Australian researcher and anti-GM campaigner Judy Carman who said she was concerned the deregulation would lead to GMOS passing through the environment and food supply without sufficient safety assessment.

"It is cause for concern as they have no history of safe use," she said.

The story Lobby groups push to stop GM legislation change first appeared on Farm Online.

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