Australia is poised to become the first country in the world to allow genetically engineered wheat crops, following farmer rejection in North America.
Wheat - our largest export crop - brings $5 billion into the economy each year. Greenpeace’s new report - launched by some of Australia’s top chefs, scientists and journalists ‘Spliced Bread – the Threat of Genetically Engineered Wheat in Australia’ – examines potential damage to the Australian agricultural industry, consumers and the environment.
The biotech industry has been quick to respond that Greenpeace is depriving farmers of profit, the hungry masses of sustenance and consumers of choice. However, many farmers are savvy to industry spin and painfully aware of yield failure and lack of market demand.
Geoffrey Carracher, Network for Concerned Farmers, has called for independent evidence GE wheat will mean profit for farmers, not just swell the bottom line of multinational biotech companies.
“Australian farmers are being lied to by their Farmers Federation, chemical companies and politicians. Who in the world wants to eat it? There is no market demand for GE wheat, so where are the promised profits? Where are the independent studies about markets, yield and agronomy?” said Mr Carracher.
In 2003 the Australian Wheat Board noted significant market access barriers for GE wheat, including consumer rejection and mandatory labelling. They argued Australia's mainly non-GM grain industry gives us a significant competitive advantage.
One of Australia’s largest bread producers, Goodman Fielder, yesterday unequivocally rejected GE wheat recognizing consumers do not want to eat it.
The Public Health Association of Australia has added their voice to the growing demand for independent evidence that GE wheat poses no risk to human health.
Public Health Association of Australia Spokesperson Catriona Bonfiglioli, PhD said: “The PHAA believes Australia needs thorough independent research into the effects of GM foods.”
“Without these studies, Australia should impose a freeze on the growing of GM crops for commercial purposes,” Dr Bonfiglioli said.
Dr Bonfiglioli said food labelling must be improved: “Food regulation is supposed to protect public health and give consumers the information they need to make informed choices.”