GM foods part of the solution: Burke

Posted by Isobel Drake on 20th November 2008

Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke told the UN Food and Agriculture Organization overnight that he believes GM crops could play a vital role in coping with a global food shortage and climate change.

The GM debate continues to be fuelled, with some arguing they are a solution to a potential crisis, while others fear they will merely create more problems. Studies suggest, however, that the majority of consumers are still to make up their mind.


Greenpeace last month released a report, ‘Eating in the Dark’, which called for an urgent independent review of the safety assessment regime for GE food, and for all foods derived from GE crops to be labelled. The report also called into question the current approval process of the Australia’s food safety regulator, FSANZ.

Mr Burke argues that arguments against GM foods are often based on rumour rather than fact. “The key principle needs to be one of food safety and food safety decisions need to be based on science, not superstition,” he told ABC radio this morning. “That is why my view is and the Government’s view is that it will be part of the jigsaw – part of the jigsaw in dealing with climate change, part of the jigsaw in dealing with the global food crisis.”

“We can’t pretend that there is some magic solution with genetically modified food that will solve every problem but with the challenges that we face, we need to open our minds and hearts and see what it can deliver,” Mr Burke suggested. “Food safety issues are an issue no matter what sort of technology you are dealing with and GM is no different but the food safety question should be dealt with on a case by case example on their own merits.”

Mr Burke advised that rigorous safety checks would be carried out before GM crops were to be permitted, with anything that represented a threat to not be released. “There are safety concerns and environmental concerns that need to be sorted out in every level of food production,” he noted. “Those standards need to be applied to GM in the same way that they are applied to anything else and that gets us back to rigorous food safety standards that base health recommendations purely on the science.”

“And if we do that and a particular GM product doesn’t come up to scratch, then it shouldn’t be released,” Mr Burke concluded. “At a time of world food shortage, it is very difficult to argue that we should turn our backs on answers that science can give us.”

Earlier this year the Victorian and New South Wales Governments became the first to lift a moratorium on GM canola.