Western Australian Agriculture Minister Kim Chance has welcomed calls from Australia’s largest food manufacturer to all States, to maintain their moratoria on the growing of genetically modified crops.
Food company Goodman Fielder has written to all Australian State Premiers and Agriculture Ministers urging a continuation of the GM moratorium.
Goodman Fielder chief executive officer Peter Margin cited increasing consumer uncertainty about the long term effects of eating GM food; consumer preference for foods that are not genetically modified; Australia’s current international competitive advantage for its GM-free status and continuing uncertainty about the performance of GM crops in Australian conditions as reasons for continuing the moratorium.
Mr Margin urged a continuation of the cautious approach to GM technology and noted that once genetically modified crops are introduced, the decision could never be reversed.
Mr Chance said that Goodman Fielder had shown that it was in touch with Australian consumers and primary producers by calling for the retention of the moratorium.
An annual survey undertaken by Swinburne University showed that consumers remained uncertain about GM foods.
“According to the survey, only 30 per cent of Australians were comfortable with GM plants for food, while only 19 per cent reported some level of comfort with GM animals for food,” he said.
“In another recent survey by Rural Press, only 27.6 per cent of farmers wanted to see GM grain crops introduced into Australia.”
The Minister said Goodman Fielder’s observations about the competitive advantage Australia currently enjoys through its GM-free status appeared to be ‘right on the money’.
“Figures supplied by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics (ABARE) show that the substantial price premium that Canadian farmers used to regularly receive for their non-GM canola over Australian non-GM canola has completely disappeared,” he said.
“In April 1998, the difference between Australian and Canadian prices was about US$70 a tonne in favour of Canada.
“By September 2007, Australian non-GM canola prices had exceeded Canadian GM canola prices by some US$58 a tonne. (Source: ABARE).
“This represents a turnaround of some US$120 per tonne in favour of Australia’s non-GM canola producers.”
Mr Chance said ABARE’s figures showed it was now Australia’s canola farmers who were being paid a substantial premium for their GM-free product.
He also shared Goodman Fielder’s concerns about the performance of GM crops in Australian conditions and noted that there had been no independently-run variety trials and called for such trials to be undertaken before any consideration is given to reviewing the moratoria.
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