‘Bring back the science to GM debate’, says GPSA
GRAIN Producers SA is calling for rational, science-focused debate to prevail in the argument over growing genetically modified crops in South Australia.
Chief executive Darren Arney says debate between members of the State Government and Federal Government in recent weeks had done nothing to take the politics out of the GM argument, which was already clouded by emotion and misinterpretation of information.
Mr Arney says the State Government seems to be confused on GM crop technology in three key areas – food safety, chemical use and economic benefits.
“Comments from the South Australian Minister for Agriculture comparing genetically modified crops to tobacco and asbestos are irresponsible and contradict the latest science, which points to the safety of GM crops,” Mr Arney said.
“Australia has an enviable regulatory system governing food safety through Food Standards Australia New Zealand which assesses each new genetic modification for its potential impact on food safety and does not approve a food unless it is safe to eat.”
FSANZ states it compares GM food on a case-by-case basis with a similar, commonly eaten conventional food from a molecular, toxicological, nutritional and compositional point of view to find out if there are any differences between GM food and its conventional counterpart, which is already known to be safe to eat.
FSANZ says the following: ‘If the genetic modification causes an unexpected effect in the food, such as increasing its allergenicity or toxicity, it will not be approved. To date, we have identified no safety concerns with any of the GM foods that we have assessed. Other national regulators who have independently assessed the same GM foods have reached the same conclusions.
“This is a clear statement from a globally-respected, science-based organisation that disproves the State Government’s assertion that GM foods are not safe,” Mr Arney said.
GPSA believes the State Government’s participation in the March Against Monsanto rally tomorrow displays its bias on the GM issue and the fact it is not listening to the needs of the grain industry as one of the biggest export-earning industries in this State.
“The march is also a rally against the legal use of crop protection products to deliver clean, fresh food. So it is not clear as to whether the State Government is suggesting that we shouldn’t be using chemicals in primary production at all, even though their state departments use them for weed control, such as in forests. State and local governments are one of the largest users of glyphosate in South Australia, which has been available for the past 40 years.
“GM crops can use less chemicals than traditional crops and so offer grain growers the opportunity to use fewer chemicals and rely on the crop’s in-bred resistance to pests and diseases.”
GPSA is also calling on the State Government to publicly disclose the figures that prove by being GM-free, the SA economy is receiving an economic benefit.
“Last harvest, SA canola was sold for $15 a tonne less than Victorian canola where GMs are grown, showing there was no financial benefit to grain producers being GM free,” Mr Arney said.
“South Australian grain growers are falling behind their counterparts in other States. They must have the freedom to choose to grow whatever crops will deliver the best return for their business. It should be an on-farm decision made by growers, not a decision made for them as part of the political process.”