Gillard and Abbott fail on Gene Manipulation policies

Posted by Josette Dunn on 16th August 2010

Gene Ethics’ election survey found both major parties are very aware of deep community concerns over Genetically Manipulated Organisms (GMOs) on farms and in food. But unlike the Greens, neither the ALP nor the Coalition would commit to strengthen the law or regulatory systems.
“This complacency over GM threats means the Greens’ clear support for GM-free futures and precaution on GM food and crops will be crucial if they hold the balance of power in the next parliament,” says Gene Ethics Executive Director, Bob Phelps.

“In contrast to Labor and the Coalition, the Australian Greens and Socialist Alliance based their ansers to our survey questions on their well-developed GM and sustainable agriculture policies. Green policies support a rural transition in response to the end of oil and phosphates, and climate change. But the ALP and Libs back industrial farming for export, propped up by Monsanto’s GM crops and animals.”

Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd failed to implement ALP policy on GM in their first term, ignoring the 2007 promise not to approve commercial GM crop releases unless proven safe “beyond reasonable doubt”. Also in 2007, the ALP conference supported the “comprehensive labelling of genetically modified food”.

The government broke these promises and also spent $38.2 million to establish the National Enabling Technologies Strategy, which promotes genetic manipulation and nanotechnology. The ALP letter in response to the Gene Ethics election survey confirmed that if re-elected, a Gillard Government would not support the labelling of all foods made using GM techniques. The Coalition made no commitment to labelling either.

The ALP also says it supports the “existing robust national framework for managing and regulating GM crops and food”, despite our food regulator (FSANZ) ignoring key evidence on GM food safety and approving every GM application, including for some GM foods banned overseas.
The ALP and the Coalition refuse to join the Biosafety Protocol (negotiated under the UN Convention on Biodiversity) which aims for the safe international transfer, handling and use of GMOs to protect global biodiversity. Yet 160 countries are already members of the treaty.

The Coalition letter says, in part: “”The Coalition has no plans to change laws or regulations related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) {but} will be open to new commitments to increase research into GMOs and their impact.”

“Neither the ALP nor the Coalition will act on real community concerns about GM food and farms so the voters must send a clear message to them at the ballot box,” Mr Phelps concludes.