GM pioneer blasts scare tactics

Source: The West Australian 05/03/13

One of the pioneers of genetically modified crops in WA has hit out at a prime-time television advertising campaign that links GM foods to cancer, kidney and liver damage.

The Safe Food Foundation campaign targets Liberal Party and WA Nationals support for GM crops in what is believed to be a world-first in food safety election lobbying.

Cunderdin farmer David Fulwood said there was no credible research to suggest GM crops were unsafe.

Mr Fulwood harvested WA’s first commercial-sized trial of GM canola in late 2009 and since then has become even more convinced of its value to grain growers as a crop and agronomic tool.

“Farmers are up against it anyway and the last thing we need is to have this taken away because of an emotional campaign,” he said.

“The current genes are only the start of good things to come for producers and consumers as well. The benefits of will be huge in terms of feeding hungry people and feeding them nutritionally.”

SFF director Scott Kinnear defended the TV campaign, which shows laboratory rats deformed by tumours and endorses a vote for Labor or the Greens based on their anti-GM policies.

“It is premature to grow GM crops in WA because they haven’t been proved to be safe to reasonable standards,” Mr Kinnear.

Mr Kinnear, an agricultural scientist specialising in biochemistry, acknowledged the claims in the TV campaign were based on a study attacked by other scientists.

Large parts of the Seralini study, published in respected US science journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, have been rebutted by food regulation agencies.

Mr Kinnear said Seralini was a long-term feeding study whereas regulatory agencies continued to rely on short-term feeding studies.

Only two GM crops can be grown in WA – cotton on the Ord River and canola.

Premier Colin Barnett said while there were no plans to extend GM approvals, it was important to embrace scientific advances.

“While there is no proposal to go beyond that (canola and cotton) at this stage, many farmers are advocating other GM applications,” Mr Barnett said.

“At the moment we’re sticking with GM canola and I think there’s nearly 100,000ha being grown.”

Mr Fulwood said any commercial planting of GM wheat in WA was a “long way off” and might not happen at all depending on market signals.

“Farmers follow market signals closely and if the market signals it doesn’t want GM wheat obviously we’ll respect that,” he said.