- Current Issues
- Take Action
- Bills Introduced 2012
- Bills debated
- Budget Estimates Hearings
- Committee Reports
- Disallowance Motions
- Guide to Petitions
- How we can help
- Learn About Parliament
- Motions Debated
- Questions on Notice
- Questions without Notice 2009
- Questions without Notice 2010
- Questions without Notice 2011
GM Disallowance Motion Speech
Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL - Tuesday, 18 May 2010]
Hon Giz Watson; Hon Robyn McSweeney; Hon Jon Ford; Hon Brian Ellis; Hon Lynn MacLaren
GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS FREE AREAS EXEMPTION ORDER — DISALLOWANCE
Pursuant to standing order 152(b), the following motion by Hon Giz Watson was moved pro forma on 24 March —
That the Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Exemption Order published in the Government Gazette on 29 January 2010 and tabled in the Legislative Council on 3 March 2010 under the Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Act 2003, be and is hereby disallowed.
HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [9.33 pm]: I will add to the comments made by my colleague Hon Giz Watson and refute some of the comments made by members of the government in this debate. I will try to do this very quickly. I am sorry if Hansard has difficulty catching up; I will try to be very careful about checking that.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Hansard will have a much better chance of picking up all of the remarks if three or
four of the conversations that are taking place in little groups were to cease.
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Thank you, Mr President. According to the book, Genetic Roulette—The
Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods —
In October 2005, Wayne Parrot compiled 60 abstracts entitled, “General Safety and Safety Assessment
of Specific Genetically Modified Crops from Scientific Journal Articles.” The list was presented to the
minister for agriculture and food in the government of western Australia as evidence that sufficient
research had been conducted to conclude that GM food was safe. According to an analysis by
epidemiologist Judy Carman, “A review of these abstracts found that most were animal production
studies. … In fact, only nine abstracts could be considered to contain measures applicable to human
health. The majority of these (six abstracts; 67%) found adverse effects from eating GM crops.”
Carman pointed out that several other studies with adverse findings had been omitted from the
compilation. She concluded, “The list of abstracts therefore does not support claims that GM crops are
safe to eat. On the contrary, it provides evidence that GM crops may be harmful to health.”
I am very concerned that the decision made by this government has been based on poor science. I will point to
some of the consumer issues regarding GM foods and the growing of GM crops in Western Australia. I will start
by quoting from Choice magazine—we are all pulling out our magazines—and its article entitled “Who’s afraid
of GM food?”. The article talks about labelling. I am sure that all members have been inundated with
information from many lobby groups on this issue. I want to draw attention to this article in particular because
the public of Western Australia is extremely concerned. The article states —
Proponents of GM claim food is cheaper because GM crops need less application of pesticides and are
easier to manage. But this argument is difficult to sustain, given GM seeds cost farmers more than non-
GM varieties and increasing evidence that GM varieties of corn and canola can require higher levels of
application of pesticides than some non-GM varieties.
That information completely contradicts what Hon Brian Ellis just told us. It continues —
Still, the GM industry is big on promises of tastier and healthier foods that have yet to become reality
So far, it seems big agribusiness has benefited more than consumers, and not surprisingly these
companies often produce the pesticides to which their GM crop varieties are tailored. Monsanto became
the world’s largest seed firm in 2005, and in 2007 increased its control through the purchase of Delta
and Pine Land, the world’s largest cottonseed company.
Are members seeing a pattern? The article also states —
This is because the labelling requirements under the Food Standards Code apply only to foods that
contain artificially modified DNA or protein. Products such as canola oil —
The product we are about to export around the world —
… don’t need to be labelled, even when they’re made entirely from GM canola. The same applies to
products from animals fed GM feed such as canola meal. These do not require labelling on the grounds
that GM protein or DNA cannot be detected in the end-products — meat, eggs or milk.
Many consumer groups are fighting the growing of GM crops around the world. In WA, Janet Grogan from the
GM Free Consumers Network sent a very interesting discussion paper to all members on the health and safety
concerns of GM crops. In the discussion paper she pointed to the South Australian feeding trials that our own
government set up, yet it has not waited to see the results of those trials before starting to grow GM seed in this
state. That is wrong. She talks about the many risks that are involved in the growing of GM crops.
Contamination is inevitable. We have heard significant evidence to that effect. It is unrealistic to expect zero
contamination. We heard from Hon Jon Ford about tolerance levels. Her paper states —
As a consumers group our main concerns relate to human health and consumer choice, both of which
we believe will be compromised with the introduction of GM crops into WA.
There is significant evidence that Monsanto has failed to meet good laboratory practice. The group, Mothers Are
Demystifying Genetic Engineering, has carefully analysed the information upon which FSANZ has made its
decision, saying —
We know the GM canola is planted for this year, but this does not prevent it from being banned
for next year, but better still, removed. Indeed in the USA GM sugar beet is under legal challenge
and may be banned, though it was already planted. This material makes it very difficult for a
politician to support the planting of this crop on the basis that ‘FSANZ approved it’. The Gene
Technology Regulator used the same Monsanto material.
That material is discredited in this report. I have probably run out of time because I want to give
Hon Giz Watson time to respond to members’ comments, but I want to make three more pertinent points that
should be noted on the record.
Japan, which is one of those Asian countries referred to, has written to all of us and said that there is a petition
with 155 groups representing 2.9 million consumers who do not want to buy GM canola. They do not want GM
oil. I know this personally because I was lucky enough to be visited by members of the Seikatsu Club
Consumers’ Co-operative Union who, when they visited WA were very kind to drop into my office. They also
have written to other members, particularly to the minister, Terry Redman, to say —
The Tohto Consumers’ Co-operative currently buys canola from Canada but it is considering changing
its source to WA because it wants uncontaminated non-GM canola.
They also state —
As you may know, the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union has purchased non-GM canola
from Western Australia since 1998 —
They are one of our valued customers —
We buy a total of 13,000 tons of non-GM canola 2009/2010 in conjunction with the two oil crushers
who work with us.
The markets in Japan do not want Western Australia to grow GM. They are very concerned about us growing
GM canola as they want to protect their market and they have a consumer network that is active in trying to
prohibit this. We have also received from John Wood a very excellent one-pager. If members did not get the
arguments and absorb all of the material we got, they should at least have read this letter. It reads —
There exist irrefutable and compelling reasons to disallow GMO crops…
Mr Wood lists all the bullet points and I wish I could read them all to members, but I have run out of time. Mr
Wood states, in part —
WA is perfectly placed to capitalise on the supply of GMO free food to world markets including parts
of Australia that have gone down the path of allowing GMOs. But we face losing that unique marketing
position because consumers in Western societies and in Australia are, in increasing numbers, rejecting
the inclusion of GMOs into their food supply.
Dr Erwin Chargaff, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Columbia University, discoverer of
“Chargaff’s Rules” (the scientific foundation for the discovery of the DNA double helix) —
Let us say an esteemed scientist —
has this to say on sustainability and GMOs. “I have a feeling that science has transgressed a barrier that
should have remained inviolate... You cannot recall a new form of life...It will survive you and your
children and children’s children. An irreversible attack on the biosphere is something so unheard of, so
unthinkable in previous generations, that I only wish that mine had not been guilty of it”.
I will finish with two comments. One is from David Kibble, who is also quoted by one of the other members
who commented on this. He said —
If we must have GM crops in WA then they must be regulated and segregated.
There must be measures in place to clean up spills and litigate against contaminators —
We have seen that the measures currently in place are not significant —
There must be safe guards to protect our export markets by segregated grain stores —
Members, if we are going to go down this path a lot more effort has to be put into segregate these crops —
There must be mandatory labelling to ensure the public has a choice at the supermarket.
The Greens are working on that mandatory labelling at the federal level, and I have made a submission to the
food labelling review. Finally, the recommended distances of just five metres for harvesting grain and 400
metres for seed production in Australia are manifestly inadequate according to Bob Phelps, the director of Gene
Ethics, who has also pointed to the fact that Canada, which this government has consistently pointed to as a
model for WA, requires 800 metres! What we have in place is not sufficient. Hon Giz Watson and I—following
on from former members of this house before us, Hon Chrissy Sharp and Hon Jim Scott—will continue to put up
a disallowance motion whenever we can and argue against the growing of GM crops in Western Australia.