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Aussie Labour Governments Stop GE Food Crops

As the New Zealand Government pushes through legislation to further enable commercial release of genetically engineered (GE) crops, Australian state governments are ensuring that Australia will remain free from GE food crops for at least another year (1).

Yesterday’s announcement of a twelve month freeze by Victoria’s Bracks Government now means all major Australian canola growing states have imposed some form of moratorium on the commercial release of the country's first proposed GE food crop.

Recently re-elected New South Wales Premier Bob Carr’s promised bill for a three year moratorium on GE food crops is expected to pass through the state legislature in the next few weeks. Western Australia is currently drafting legislation for a five-year moratorium and Tasmania has a ban on all GE food crops in place until 2008.

The South Australia Government has asked the biotech industry not to plant this year with a parliamentary inquiry reporting back in June. Neither the Northern Territory nor ACT grows canola. Queensland grows very little and has missed the planting season for this year.

The Victorian decision comes as a major blow to applicants Monsanto and Bayer, who have lobbied strongly for the release of their GE canola products. As one of the world's largest exporters of canola, Australia is seen as a key area for expansion of GE crops, which are struggling to find acceptance outside North America and Argentina.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner John Hepburn described the national freeze on GE canola as "a victory for common sense". "GE crops are a pariah both domestically and on world markets. It is not in Australia's economic interest to introduce GE canola, nor is it in the interests of the community".

Greenpeace New Zealand campaigner Steve Abel said: “Our own Labour Government should be listening to public opinion and the clearly demonstrated economic imperative against GE crops by legislating a ban on them here”. “But they have become so entrenched in the politics of lifting the moratorium that they intend to give up the very GE free opportunity that the Royal Commission advised we must maintain.”

(1) Australia currently only allows the commercial planting of GE cotton and GE carnations.

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