New attack on GM wheat

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Greenpeace is launching a scathing report on genetically modified wheat today in a bid to stop it reaching supermarket shelves by 2015.

Commercialisation of GM wheat is seven to 10 years away but Greenpeace says the Federal Government aims to have GM sliced bread on supermarket shelves within four years.

The report, Australia’s wheat scandal: The biotech takeover of our daily bread, is likely to create an instant reaction from consumers.

Ten topics are covered including claims AWB had a strong policy rejecting GM wheat, contamination is inevitable, corporate control of seed and vested interests of seed companies with CSIRO research.

The report says GM crops have delivered no economic benefits including yield increases and that there is more pesticide dependence, increased weed resistance and failed segregation.

Other topics look at health risks, food security and field trial risks to bulk wheat and export markets.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Laura Kelly said commercial field trials of GM wheat were a big risk to WA farmers given the recent GM canola contamination in Kojonup.

Ms Kelly said the Federal and State governments had failed to undertake any study into the impact of GM wheat on export markets or associated risks and should not be released into the field.

And she said there was not enough transparency of tax payer money used to fund research that will inevitably help overseas seed companies.

Along with the report, Greenpeace will release a separate solutions paper for farmers focusing on sustainable farming which is being dubbed “agroecology”.

On Tuesday, the grains industry held a teleconference led by Agrifood Awareness Australia spokeswoman Paula Fitzgerald to discuss the Greenpeace report.

Ms Fitzgerald said the report seemed to be nothing more than a media stunt, despite evidence around the world that growers and consumers accepted new crop varieties.

During the teleconference, Ms Fitzgerald said the report would appear credible to those with no understanding of the history or workings of the Australian grains industry.

When speaking to Countryman, Ms Fitzgerald said GM wheat was at least seven to 10 years away and Greenpeace’s claims it would be here before that were ridiculous and claims against CSIRO were appalling.

“Australia is a small country and for years in our science we have partnered with others to help bring a return of new crops and technologies to Australia, ” she said.

“The grains industry as a whole is sensibly working through and thinking about this knowing it has seven to 10 years.

“There is broad support for GM wheat research and development in this country.

“For Greenpeace to be mischievous and try to create doubt in consumers’ minds is extremely disappointing.

“On top of that, from a farmer perspective, to be suggesting that Australian farmers are producing unsafe food is extremely unacceptable in the minds of Australian agriculture.”

Australia signed a trilateral agreement with the US and Canada in 2009 to support GM wheat research and development.

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