Thursday, July 28, 2011

Farmers resist GM food contamination

The debate over genetically modified (GM) food has flared up again recently, after Greenpeace destroyed an experimental CSIRO wheat crop in Canberra on July 14.

The Australian Federal Police is now investigating Greenpeace over the incident, which CSIRO scientists claim has set their research back by up to a year.

Greenpeace argued the crop posed a threat to the environment and to human health. Plans are underway for human trials of the GM wheat before tests are first conducted on animals.

Greenpeace also accused the CSIRO of a conflict of interest for its closeness to several biotech companies, including NuFarm (the exclusive Australian distributor for biotech giant Monsanto), agribusiness giant Monsanto and Arcadia Biosciences (a US company with close ties to GM-giant Monsanto).

It also criticised Australia’s weak regulation of GM crops.

The CSIRO rejected that the wheat posed a threat, arguing that the modified wheat contained no genes from other organisms, and was designed to improve the crop’s nutritional value.

GM crops have become the source of increasing contention recently, in Australia and overseas.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Federal police raid Greenpeace offices after GM crops destroyed

Shortly before noon on July 21, officers from the Australian Federal Police raided and shut down the Sydney offices of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, confiscating material but making no arrests.

The raid was conducted in relation to an "alleged trespass and property damage” on July 14, when Greenpeace activists in Hazmat suits used whipper-snippers to destroy a CSIRO trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat being grown near Ginninderra in Canberra’s north.

Greenpeace claimed that the wheat was planned for secret human trials later this year, but had already caused allergic reactions in mice.

According to the CSIRO, however, the wheat was not transgenic, and that wheat genes had simply been slightly modified to lower the glycaemic index and increase fibre in order to improve bowel health and increase nutritional value.

Greenpeace also accused the CSIRO of a conflict of interest because two directors of Nufarm – the exclusive distributor for the US-based biotech giant Monsanto in Australia – sat on the CSIRO board when the wheat trial was approved.

Trials of GM wheat and barley have also begun near Narrabri in NSW, as well as in Western Australia. The Western Australian trials are being run by Intergrain, a company co-owned by Monsanto.