The Guardian November 17, 1999


Government research stations producing GE seeds for Monsanto

According to information released by the state Government, Tasmania is 
playing a key role in genetically engineered (GE) seed production for 
Monsanto at Departmental Research Stations at Cressy and Forth.

"Tasmania has put itself into a key position in the foisting of Genetically 
Engineered crops on an unwilling public overseas by producing the seed for 
Monsanto, and this ill-advised government support for genetic engineering 
puts our clean green reputation on the line", said Peg Putt, Tasmanian 
Greens MHA.

The Greens learnt, at a government briefing, that:

* GE canola crops are being grown at Cressy and Forthside (Forth) 
Departmental Research stations for off-season seed production for Monsanto;

* GE poppy crops have been approved for the east coast and north of the 
State, but the Department was not aware of which sites had actually been 
planned;

* GE potato trials were undertaken in Tasmania about five years ago, but 
Departmental staff could not say where (although they thought it was 
probably on a research station) or what clean-up measures had been 
undertaken;

* neighbours and nearby communities are not informed of the planting of GE 
crops, although councils are notified;

* no protective measures to prevent pollen drift from GE crops are in 
place, and there is no state-based assessment process for GE crops in which 
the community can be involved;

* the only opportunity for community consultation is if a person enrolls 
with the Commonwealth Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee to receive 
information, or reads the Commonwealth Gazette.

It was also revealed that organic vegetable trials are under way on one of 
the research stations which is also growing GE canola.

Monsanto ran into a lot of trouble in Europe with its trials of GE crops.

It was the protests and destruction of crops by local communities and the 
general public that finally forced politicians to adopt a more cautious 
approach and to introduce more stringent controls.

Monsanto is constantly on the look-out for more accommodating politicians 
and states which could give it an opportunity to continue with unrestricted 
promotion and production of GE material.

It is very active in Eastern Europe, for instance, where the agricultural 
crisis is so deep that whoever comes with a bit of money is welcome.

That Tasmania should find itself in a similar situation is an absolute 
disgrace.

As Ms Putt points out, "Safeguards are woeful, efforts to inform and 
consult the community are non-existent, organics are being trialled where 
GE crops are also grown, and environmental, health and economic concerns 
are not being given due weight."

Secrecy and the absence of clear policy directions regarding the growing of 
genetically engineered crops in Tasmania are very worrying, to say the 
least.

As Ms Putt discovered, "obtaining facts on GE crops in Tasmania from the 
Bacon Government has been like drawing teeth, and now we discover that the 
growing of GE on the Government's own research stations is not a trial but 
part of Monsanto's GE seed supplies for planting in the northern 
hemisphere.

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