The Story So Far
THE US Government and US biotechnology companies have been driving the commercialisation of genetically modified crops, which began in 1995. Progress has been dogged by debate and controversy.
With the strongest hold-outs in Europe, US companies have been concentrating on Asian and African markets, promising higher yields and lower costs for farmers. The commercial take-up has been fastest with soya beans, corn, cotton and canola, and GM varieties now represent about 29 per cent of the world’s total planting of those four crops. Most of that has been planted by the US, Argentina, Brazil and Canada.
In Australia, GM crops are regulated by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.
So far, only six licences to grow GM crops have been approved as safe and suitable for humans, animals and the environment: two varieties each of canola, cotton and carnations. Only the cotton market has taken off, and as much as 80 per cent of Australia’s cotton crop is believed to be grown from GM seeds.
But that doesn’t mean you might not be eating GM produce. As of June last year, 25 GM foods sourced from corn, soya beans, sugar beet, potatoes, cotton and canola had been approved for use in Australia by Food Standards Australia New Zealand.
Most of these foods have come from plants that have been genetically modified to improve their growing characteristics, protecting the crop from pests or making it tolerant to herbicides, for example. They are mostly imported from other countries to be used in Australian food production or are present in imported food such as corn chips or oil made from soya beans.
If a food, food ingredient, additive or processing aid contains novel DNA or protein that has come from an approved GM food, it must be labelled with the words “genetically modified”. Foods that do not need to be labelled in this way include highly refined foods such as oil made from GM soya beans and foods in which GM ingredients are present accidentally and make up less than 1 per cent of the final product.
From an article by Wendy Frew – March 28 2006, The Sydney Morning Herald
Is there GM Labeling in Australia?
Yes. GM foods must be labeled in Australia. However… there are exceptions. These foods don’t require labeling: Food Additives and processing aids, Highly refined foods (such as refined oils, sugars and starches), Flavourings (including individual aromatic, carrier and other components) at no more than 1 g/kg (0.1%) in the final food, Food intended for immediate consumption (vending machine food, fast foods, resturant food, take-away foods). Also the standard allows for the unintentional presence of a GM food not more than 10 g/kg (1%) per ingredient.
So McDonalds; BurgerKing, KFC can all legally can sell GM foods without labeling (but you can ask them). Most of the processed food in the supermarket can contain GM additives and flavours without labels. Each ingredient in a food can contain up to 1% of GM content with no labelling required. If I read the AU Gov web site correctly, oils made from GM grain don’t require labelling either.
Yet there is evidence that GM foods are causing health problems. I’m certainly not happy with these exceptions. Like too many other house holds, allergies dominate my families lives, so for us pure unadulterated foods, with proper labeling is essential.
Other Jot Notes
Those warning against the fast adoption of GM include Juliet McFarlane: A canola, wheat and sheep farmer from Young in NSW is wary of claims being made for GM crops. McFarlane is a founding member of the Network of Concerned Farmers.
Again I’d like to acknowledge all the great work done my NCF and by Julie Newman who runs the web site.
Crop Contamination by Test Crops
Even before GM Canola crops are allowed in Australia, contamination is being found in Australian grain from research being done by the Tasmanian Government…
GM: A case of good crop bad crop - March 2006, Sydney Morning Herald
Jeffrey Smith responds to Andrew Bolt’s personal attack
Author Jeffrey Smith was invited to Australia in Dec 2007 after Brumby lifted the ban on GM Canola. He was invited to speak at parliament house. Controversial columnist Andrew Bolt did some mud slinging and petty name calling. Smith again responded with more solid information on the dangers of GM food.
Andrew Bolt’s attack on Jeffrey Smith – Nov 30 2007, Herald Sun
Jeffrey Smith responds – Dec 6th 2007, Herald Sun
Jeffrey’s response via The Herald Sun…
December 06, 2007 12:00am
AUSTRALIA is witnessing the vicious “attack and disinform” tactics used to divert attention from evidence that GM foods are dangerous to health and bad for the economy.
Andrew Bolt’s rambling and bizarre personal attack on me on these pages on November 30 follows 15 years of victimisation of those who identify the dangers that threaten biotech profits.
Consider Dr Arpad Pusztai, the world’s leading scientist in his field, who inadvertently discovered in 1998 that unpredictable changes in GM crops caused massive damage in rats.
He went public with his concerns and was a hero at his prestigious institute for all of two days.
The director of the institute received two phone calls, allegedly from the UK prime minister’s office, and Dr Pusztai was fired after 35 years and silenced with threats of a lawsuit.
False statements were circulated to trash his reputation and these statements are being repeated by Australian GM advocates today.
According to University of California professor Ignacio Chapela, when he was about to publish evidence that GM corn contaminated Mexico’s indigenous varieties, a senior Mexican government official threatened him.
“We know where your children go to school,” he was told.
In Russia, Dr Irina Ermakova, a leading scientist at the Russian National Academy of Sciences, fed female rats GM soy.
She was stunned to discover that more than half their offspring died within three weeks, compared with only 10 per cent from mothers fed non-GM soy.
Without funding to extend her analysis, Dr Ermakova labelled her work “preliminary” and published it in a Russian journal.
She implored the scientific community to repeat the study. Two years later no one has done this.
A New Zealand MP testified at the 2001 Royal Commission of Inquiry on Genetic Modification:
“I have been contacted by telephone and email by a number of scientists who have serious concerns . . . but who are convinced that if they express these fears publicly . . . or even if they asked the awkward and difficult questions, they will be eased out of their institution.”
Prof Christian Velot raised difficult questions on genetically modified organisms at public conferences and his 2008 research funds were confiscated.
Antagonists in Australia are particularly vicious, paying no heed to facts or decency. Similarly, Andrew Bolt gives false and misleading information about my personal beliefs and about the laboratory I worked at seven years ago.
And he confuses a rat study, showing that GM corn can produce herbicides inside their gut, with a human study.
He claims that herbicide-tolerant crops decrease the use of herbicides, but, according to government data, it is substantially increased.
All these cases are in my book, but apparently Bolt is too busy trying to discredit the book to actually read it.
Bolt’s rhetoric attempts to persuade politicians to distance themselves from those of us who have the facts.
It doesn’t work.
One parliamentarian, who hosted my talk some time ago, received a call asking: “Are you aware of what Jeffrey Smith failed to disclose?”
The parliamentarian replied: “What, that he practices meditation?”
She then burst out laughing and said: “You’ve got to do better than that.”
Indeed, with GM products linked to thousands of toxic and allergic reactions, thousands of sick, sterile and dead livestock and damage to virtually every organ studied, you’ve got to do way better than that.