GE Multinationals use Australia as a guinea pig
by Andrew Jackson A secret deal between local beekeepers and GE (genetically engineered) food multinationals Monsanto and Aventis has been described as "outrageous" by the Organic Federation of Australia and the Federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge accused of being negligent and indifferent to the plight of Tasmanian farmers. "This is outrageous given (the possible) contamination of like crops and related species", said Scott Kinnear, the Chair of the Organic Federation. "The use of commercial bees massively increases the risk of cross- pollination and we know they move pollen up to 10km", he said. "In addition, what about the honey produced? Any honey produced from nectar coming off GE canola plantings is likely to be illegal, and should be illegal for sale in Australia". He said that although the Australia New Zealand Food Authority has approved the use of GE canola oil in Australia, they had not given approval for honey that may be contaminated by bees. "The Federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge should immediately order an investigation to ascertain the extent of honey produced and where it may have been sold. This honey should be withdrawn immediately from sale," said Mr Kinnear. Senator Bob Brown said this revelation, and information that unplanned GE canola regrowth has occurred around 11 of Tasmania's 57 secret crop sites, made a farce of the Regulator's assurance that a 100 metre buffer zone was sufficient to quarantine the GE crops. Senator Brown called on the Minister of Health Michael Wooldridge to go to Tasmania to set up an independent inquiry and look at the feasibility of criminal charges. "The Minister and his IOTR (Interim Office of the Gene Technology Regulator) have fuelled the fears of farmers and consumers that GE experimentation by the multinationals in Tasmania is out of control", Senator Brown said. "Monsanto and Aventis are using Australia as a guinea pig and both state and federal authorities have shown sheer negligence. "The potential damage to Tasmania's burgeoning organic farm produce sector is huge and glib assurances of negligible risk from the regulator are unacceptable," Senator Brown said. He accused them of failing, local government and farmers by ensuring that the GE crops were one off and not regenerated or spread. "The least this disinterested Minster should do is pay for monitoring of all crops within 10 kilometres of the experimental GE crops for at least 3 years. "But it seems that both the Federal Government and the corporations are leaving this burden to local farmers", said Senator Brown. The one small victory Tasmania's farmers had this week is that the Minister has agreed to release a list telling where the secret GE crops were planted. The Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment has defended the State Government's record in trying to keep Tasmania GE free. "Through direct action, we have put a moratorium on open field trials since July 2000, forced changes to the Federal Government's legislation, which will resolve some of the outstanding issues", said Minster David Llewellyn. He also accused the Greens of trying to hijack the issue, saying, "The Greens think they are the only ones who care about the environment. They should join with the government in attacking the Federal Government." Meanwhile the Organic Federation has said that a three-year moratorium is insufficient. "Australia should come to its senses in this election year and stop GE for at least five to ten years to allow some regulatory sanity to prevail". They have issued a dire warning, saying that the current revelations were only the "tip of the iceberg", and that the contamination was probably going on in most states of Australia.