GM crops pose unacceptable risks to human health, the environment and the economy. The WA Government's position is a triumph for common sense, and is in stark contrast to the governments of Victoria and NSW, which not only have lifted their bans but also currently have GM crops under cultivation.
Important step for WA
The WA Government moratorium applies not only to GM food crops, but to fibre crops such as cotton as well. This is a major victory for the Say No to GMO coalition, who have been campaigning against the introduction of GM cotton in the state.
The move also sets the stage for GM crops to become an election issue in WA. In contrast to the current ALP Government, the WA Liberal Party has stated that, if elected, it would allow the commercial release of GM cotton and 500-1000 hectare field trials of GM canola. Given that GM canola can pollinate non-GM canola 25km away, this would risk the contamination of WA's non-GM canola. The National Party leader Brendon Grylls has also said that the National Party supports allowing farmers to grow GM crops “but only for industrial purposes – that includes (GM) canola and oilseeds for biofuel and other non-food uses and (GM) cereals for ethanol and other industrial type purposes, and cotton in the Ord”.1 Mr Grylls has not yet outlined how he would prevent food crops from being contaminated by these crops.
Most Australians say “no” to GM
Polls consistently show that the majority of Australian consumers do not want to eat GM food, and the same is true in our major export markets such as Japan and Europe.
Governments should be putting the interests of consumers and the environment ahead of the vested interests of multinational agri-business. We’d strongly encourage the WA Liberal and National parties to review their policies on GM in light of consumer demands.
Time for federal government to act on labelling
The WA Government has also recently called on their federal counterparts to deliver on the comprehensive labelling and stringent safety assessment of GM food, a responsibility that currently sits, somewhat uncomfortably, with the federal food safety regulator, FSANZ.
We are well overdue for an overhaul of the regulatory approach to GM. Last year, the federal ALP promised not to approve the release of GM crops unless they could be proven safe “beyond reasonable doubt”. The ALP's National Conference in April 2007 also supported the comprehensive labelling of GM food. Canola is used in many foods and in animal feed. With NSW and Victoria now allowing GM canola to be commercially grown for the first time, the federal government needs to deliver on these promises urgently.
(1) Ladyman and Quinton (2008) “Libs and Nats say yes to GM” The Countryman p 3.