The Guardian July 5, 2000


GE crop ban in Tassie

by Andrew Jackson

Tasmania leads the way for Australia by taking action which will effect a 
temporary ban on the planting of genetically modified crops.

The ban is in defiance of the Federal Government, and was put in place 
while State Parliament debates the "Genetic Engineering in Agriculture 
Prohibition Bill", introduced by Greens MHA, Peg Putt.

Labor Minister Llewellyn has indicated that the government will support an 
Inquiry and allow Ms Putt to be a member of the Committee.

The Greens felt urgent action was needed after the Commonwealth approved a 
new round of GE crop trials, which were to be planted in 24 of Tasmania's 
29 local government areas.

"We cannot afford to waste time in policy limbo on GE crops, it is urgent 
that politicians get informed and take control in the best interests of 
Tasmania's clean, green agricultural direction," Ms Putt said.

The action taken by the Tasmanian Parliament follows similar moves by the 
Greens in the Senate, after a report to the House of Representatives warned 
of the potential environmental catastrophe that may accompany the 
introduction of GE crops.

Federal Government gift to biotech companies

Meanwhile the Federal Government is making $30 million of taxpayers' money 
available to start-up corporations in the bio-technology sector. The 
reservations of many scientists and community organisations are being swept 
away as the government ploughs ahead.

$7 million is to be spent on "public education campaigns" to change 
community attitudes towards GM foods, and their effect on the environment.

Patricia Kelly, head of Biotechnology Australia claimed that a public that 
questions the benefits of genetic engineering would be "chains around the 
industry's neck." The Federal Government's announcement says it wants to 
avoid the situation in Europe where there is widespread resistance to GM 
foods. For this purpose the government is to set up a Gene Technology 
Regulator which, from all appearances, is to be another con with the aim of 
justifying GE products to the community.

Professor John Hearn, director of the Australian National University's 
Research School of Biological sciences praised the government's strategy 
saying that it "provides for networks that include the scientific 
community, business and government so that we get a whole of Australia 
approach."

The only category left out of Prof. Hearn's approach is the Australian 
people who may have a more cautious approach to eating GM foods, the long-
term consequences of which are unknown.

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