GM wheat in Australia

August 2011

Image from Greenpeace Australia Pacific. Click to view a larger version
In March 2011, the Premier of Australia's largest wheat growing state said “We are not contemplating GM wheat”. In particular, he noted the threat such wheat would pose to important export markets because “Japanese consumers would not support GM wheat”.

Only four months later, Greenpeace Australia Pacific were taking non-violent direct action to decontaminate experimental, open air, plots of a GM wheat which had been released across the country (see map above and note below for more info).

The GM wheat being tested is intended to produce an added-value, indigestible, high-amylose-starch aimed at reducing the risk of bowel cancer due to the increased roughage. As Greenpeace point out, no single food can reduce the risk of disease, nor replace a healthy, fresh varied diet and active lifestyle.



Note on Greenpeace GM crop decontamination policy

Greenpeace activists followed strict HAZMAT protocols in removing the crop before it could flower and spread genetic pollution through pollen to Australia's conventional wheat fields.

The organisation does not oppose scientific research unless the experiments pose a risk to our food or environment, both of which are fundamental to life.

Its policy is not to support tests on the impacts of GM plants in the field because, once out there, the impact has already happened and may be irreversible.


Concerns have also been raised that the CSIRO (Australia's Commonwealth, Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is too close to the corporations intent on pushing their GM produce to make decisions in the public interest. It is not reassuring that the biotech industry has tried to placate Greenpeace by suggesting GM wheat is 7 to 10 years away, while the CSIRO documents, exposed only through Freedom of Information, claim it will be ready for market by 2015.

Greenpeace have also found out that CSIRO plans to test the GM wheat on humans.

The industry tests are not to check for toxic or allergenic effects, but to see if the novel food does what it's intended to do (provide roughage). When challenged by an international group of scientists on its intention to experiment on humans and the absence of prior, long-term trials on laboratory animals, CSIRO was suspiciously dismissive, insisting no decision had been made regarding if or when human tests will begin.

VIDEO: Australia's what scandal - from Greenpeace Australia



OUR COMMENT

Note the contradictions here: the Premier of the largest wheat-growing area in Australia is saying a clear 'no' to GM while the central government, biotech industry and scientists are carrying on regardless; the regulatory agency responsible for GM wheat development is predicting a time-scale of four years (on the quiet) while industry is (publicly) suggesting a time-scale of up to ten years; the agency responsible for GM wheat development is quietly planning to test the novel wheat on humans while publicly it is airily claiming that no decision has been taken.

Super-healthy GM wheat, to save mankind from cancer, has all the hallmarks of another PR stunt see GM WHEAT IN THE UK – July 2011)

TAKE ACTION
What you can do.
  1. Ask your bread-provider to write to the Australian Government to tell it its customers don't want GM wheat
  2. Sign the Greenpeace on-line petition to tell the Australian Prime Minister you won't swallow GM bread.
  3. Customise and sign the open letter below, then forward it to claire-parfitt@greenpeace.org who will pass all letters received to the relevant Australian government department.

Suggested letter to the Australian Government

To the Honourable Julia Gillard, Prime Minister

Re: Development of genetically modified wheat in Australia

I am (We are) writing as a concerned consumer(s) from some of Australia's key export markets for wheat and other food crops.

Genetically modified (GM) crops present serious, untested risks for consumers. No long-term, independent research has been done to assess the environmental and health impacts of GM crops. Many of the effects that have been detected by animal feeding tests, such as infertility, have only been detected in later generations. Given GM corps have only been in circulation for a little over a decade, we simply have not had the time to see what the impacts might be. In the United States, where GM is most developed, there are no GM food labelling requirements. This means that it is virtually impossible to track impacts.

As a key supplier of the world market, Australia has an important role to play in meeting global food needs.

I (We) urge the Australian government to stop GM wheat development and put a freeze on further trial approvals. Investment in sustainable agriculture solutions, reducing chemical use, improving water and resource management, will help us to insure our food supply for the future.

GM wheat is a dead-end and I won't eat GM bread and pasta.

CC: Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon
       Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Joseph Ludwig

Yours sincerely
(Signed)


SOURCES
  • Westminster Coalition issues GM policy, then GM wheat trial mooted, Thin Ice 22, July 2011
  • Belinda Tasker, Scientists reject human trials of GM wheat, Sydney Morning Herald, 27.06.11
  • Q and A on GM Wheat trial action, www.greenpeace.org
  • Request for assistance on GM wheat issue, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, 24.06.11

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