July 8, 2011


Greenpeace warns of GM wheat threat to Australian farmers



Greenpeace has warned that Australian wheat farmers stand to lose billions of dollars if the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) trials of genetically modified wheat are allowed to continue.


A report by the environmental group accused the government research organisation of "serious oversights" when it comes to managing the risks of its field trials currently taking place across the country.


"The economic implications of GM wheat are dire," Greenpeace spokeswoman Laura Kelly said in a statement on Thursday (Jul 7).


Every one of Australia's global wheat market competitors, including Canada and Europe, had rejected GM wheat, Kelly said.


"They were not convinced by global biotech companies that it would not contaminate their natural wheat crops and threaten their billion-dollar export markets," she said.


CSIRO, however, says its research will benefit local farmers.


"Our number one priority is that Australian industry and farmers realise the benefits of our grains research first and foremost," said CSIRO spokesman Huw Morgan.


"All GM wheat research conducted by the CSIRO has met the strict regulatory requirements that are set down by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator."


CropLife, an industry group representing the plant science industry, said the Greenpeace report entitled "Australia's Wheat Scandal" was a fiction, misrepresents modern crop breeding.


"GM crops have demonstrated over the last 15 years that they improve the on-farm environment while reducing the pressure to convert wilderness areas to farmland," Croplife CEO Matthew Cossey said in a statement.


Maarten Stapper, a former CSIRO scientist who claims he was sacked for questioning the safety of GM crops, said studies in the US had shown that yields for GM crops were no higher than those for ordinary crops in the long term.


"In controlled conditions in a laboratory you can get marvellous results ... but when they put them in the field there is zero per cent difference because ... all the genes are expressing themselves and it's complete competition," Dr Stapper said.


He said the CSIRO was under pressure from big biotech companies such as Monsanto to push ahead with GM crops.


"It's the commercial interests ... that help develop all those GM crops because they can make money out of it," Dr Stapper said.

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