Polls show that a huge majority of Australians – up to 90 per cent – support the ban on genetically modified (GM) crops. But this did not stop John Brumby, State Premier of Victoria, bowing to pressure from big agribusiness and announcing in November that he would not renew the current moratorium.
He and his counterpart in New South Wales (NSW), which also plans to end the ban in early 2008, argue that farmers have been missing out on export opportunities to the US and Canada because of their failure to adopt GM canola (oilseed rape) and that the volte-face will bring higher profits. It will ‘put farmers on a level playing field with their overseas counterparts for the first time’, claims one minister.
Anti-GM campaigners are appalled by the u-turn, which will mean that Australia as a whole will lose its GM-free status. Brumby’s deeply unpopular decision was taken without consultation with MPs. The majority of Australian farmers are anti-GM, and even Goodman Fielder, Australia’s largest food company, supports the ban, as do a further 250 food companies. The Network of Concerned Farmers has a very different take from Brumby on what the economic outcome of ending the ban will be: a loss of over A$65 million (US$55 million) a year for non-GM farmers.
But never fear! Over 25,000 protest cards have been sent to the NSW Government, and activists are dusting off their green gloves and pledging to rip up the so-called Frankenstein crops wherever they are planted.Steve Lancaster