Greenpeace: NSW Biotech Crop Moratorium Has Loophole

SYDNEY, Australia, May 22, 2003 (ENS): The Gene Technology (GM Crop Moratorium) Bill 2003 was tabled in the New South Wales Parliament on Wednesday in an attempt by the state government to establish a three year moratorium on the planting of genetically modified crops.
"The object of this Bill," states the legislation, "is to recognize and designate New South Wales as an area in which certain genetically modified plants may not be cultivated, in order to preserve the identity of GM crops or non-GM crops, or both, for marketing purposes." The measure provides for a maximum penalty of two years in prison for violators.

But Greenpeace Australia says a provision in the bill that allows the agriculture minister to grant exemptions to the moratorium leaves the door open for large scale biotech crop trials, "effectively circumventing the moratorium" and NSW Premier Bob Carr's election promise.

Announcing the moratorium during his election campaign, Carr said, "It is right to exercise caution on this issue." He said that "once the wide scale planting of GM crops begins in NSW, we cannot go back."

Greenpeace is calling on the Carr government to "act on community concerns" and make amendments to the bill to ensure that conventional crops are not contaminated by trials of genetically modified plants. Pollen from genetically modified crops can be carried on the wind far from the trial crop site.

In support of their position, Greenpeace Australia, the Australian Consumers Association, the Network of Concerned Farmers, the Biological Farmers of Australia and the NSW Greens presented the Premier's Office with some two thousand postcards from NSW citizens who support a real moratorium.

"Most Australian's don't want to eat GE [genetically engineered] foods, and most farmers in NSW are opposed to GE food crops being introduced," says Greenpeace campaigner, John Hepburn. "The government needs to significantly tighten the bill so that its election promise of a three year moratorium is actually implemented."

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