ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
9 January 2003


"Japan and Europe reject US corn over environmental, human, and animal health concerns, and India and Zambia will not accept it as food aid. We therefore call on the Australian government to send this ship and its suspect load back to the USA"

*Grain to get anti-GM treatment
*GM grain shipment condemned


Grain to get anti-GM treatment

By Mark Metherell
January 9 2003
Sydney Morning Herald

A 48,000-tonne shipment of US corn likely to contain genetically modified (GM) grain is to be crushed and steamed to prevent the uncontrolled spread of GM seed in Australia.

The grain, imported for poultry food, is due to arrive in Brisbane by sea this morning. It is the first shipment of corn subjected to Australia's GM safeguards.

The unusual import of the grain has been triggered by feed shortages caused by the drought.

But the anti-GM group, the GeneEthics Network, has called on the Australian Government to send the shipment back as GM-free supplies were available.

A Health Department spokeswoman said the corn would be milled, steamed and made into pellets in a high-security process which would prevent GM seed germinating in Australia.

She said GM elements would be destroyed by the process and there was no scientific evidence to suggest the GM content would pass on to the poultry.

But the Australian Consumers Association head, Louise Sylvan, said even if there was no GM residue in resulting human food, consumers had a right to know GM ingredients were used in food production and this was not provided for by Australia's labelling laws.


GM grain shipment condemned

The Greens and Democrats have condemned a move to import genetically-modified maize into Australia.

The first shipment of bulk grain to be imported to Australia since 1995 will arrive at Brisbane's Fisherman Islands terminal on Thursday under tight security.

The shipment of US-grown maize - which includes genetically-modified grain - will be unloaded in Brisbane, Newcastle and Melbourne over the next week.

Democrats agriculture spokesman Senator John Cherry said that Japan, India and Zambia had recently rejected such shipments and Australia should follow suit.

"Once we begin unloading, transporting, treating and distributing it, accidental release is likely to occur," Senator Cherry said in a statement.

"Even a minor spill can be rapidly spread by wind, water, birds, vermin or vehicle.

"We are at risk of losing markets for poultry fed with GM grains."

Senator Cherry said that in November, 300 food products had to be recalled in the US because of contamination by GM corn not intended for human consumption.

Queensland Greens spokesman John McKeon told AAP the shipment could put at risk Australia's natural genetic heritage.

"Our greatest fear is from a biological point of view - our wild stocks of food could be infected, so to speak, with changed genetics from artificial genetic manipulation," Mr McKeon said.

"That could have unpredictable consequences."

Federal quarantine and gene technology authorities have signed off on the shipment, saying planning had been thorough and all precautions would be taken.




Fifty thousand tonnes of US corn containing genetically engineered (GE) varieties arrives in Brisbane today on the Ocean Emperor (into Newcastle and Melbourne later) for use as chicken feed. The Gene Technology Regulator licensed the cargo even though some GE lines have not been assessed or approved in Australia.

"Japan and Europe reject US corn over environmental, human, and animal health concerns, and India and Zambia will not accept it as food aid," says GeneEthics Network Director, Bob Phelps.

"We therefore call on the Australian government to send this ship and its suspect load back to the USA," he says.

"US GE corn is not needed here as animal feed, even for drought relief, as 350,000 tonnes of imported GE-free wheat and sorghum are also approved and Australian grains are available," he says.

"GE corn also poses economic risks for Australian food exporters as Europe and some Asian markets reject foods (meat, milk, eggs and honey, etc) from animals fed GE grains," he says.

"Products from animals fed GE would be labeled in Europe but not here," he says.

"GE corn imports affront the 68% of Australians who want to reject foods made with gene technology," he says.

"And the 93% of Australian shoppers who want all GE foods labeled are outraged by the lack of meaningful labels on any GE products here," he says.

"Though the corn will be processed on arrival, so it may not contaminate Australia, full public assessments of the animal and human health issues should have been required before the licence was granted," he says.

"For example, breeding sows in the USA fail to conceive when fed GE corn containing insect toxin, which the Regulator is still assessing," he says.

"Send this GE corn back to the USA till it's proven safe and saleable," Mr Phelps concludes.

More comment:   Bob Phelps 03 9347 4500:
John Hepburn (Greenpeace) 02 9263 0302

PLEASE NOTE: GeneEthics Network has moved. New address follows.


Bob Phelps
Executive Director
GeneEthics Network
Level 1, 60 Leicester St, Carlton 3053 Australia
Tel: 03 9347 4500 {Int Code 613} or 1300 133868
email: (Bob Phelps)

        The problem with the gene pool is, there is no lifeguard.

        Knowing is not enough, you must also act.

        "If the people will lead, the leaders will follow." David Suzuki

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