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.