Growers split over GM

The Victorian government announced last week that they would lift the ban on commercial GM canola across this Australian state, inciting much debate and highlighting the opposing views among farmers. New South Wales is also expected to introduce GM canola shortly, against the advice of other states such as Tasmania and Western Australia.

Farmers against the cultivation of GM crops fear their introduction will tarnish Australia’s “clean, green image”. The nation’s $400 million organic industry is a key opponent of GM crops, fearing they will contaminate other crops. The Organic group Biological Farmers of Australia has criticized the Government for not establishing buffer zones around proposed GM crops, nor providing a register of where GM is grown or providing compensation funds for non-GM or organic farmers who may suffer contamination.

Those who support the introduction of GM crops believe they have the right to make their own choice and that it is about time they were given the same access to technology available to competitors around the world. Supporters state GM canola approved in Australia has no additional health or environmental risks than conventional canola, and could increase yields and reduce the use of herbicides.

Australian consumer group CHOICE says many people remain worried about GM crops and are concerned about the ethics of the technology, the current exemptions in GM labeling requirements, and the question of long-term health consequences. “Lack of evidence of harm is not evidence of safety,” Ms Hughes said of CHOICE stated.

While Canola is the only major GM food crop that has approval to be grown commercially in Australia, GM insect-resistant cotton has been grown since 1996 and food with imported GM ingredients has been on Australian supermarket shelves since the mid-1990s.

The Age

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