OZ - Foreign firms free to breed GM seeds here

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Foreign firms free to breed GM seeds here
Thursday 30 March 2000

Foreign companies are free to use Australia as a breeding ground for genetically modified seeds for export, it was revealed yesterday.

The Federal Government has confirmed that Australian authorities have no control over what happens to genetically modified seed once it leaves the country and conceded that the GM seed may be planted for commercial purposes.

The Federal Government-appointed Interim Office of the Gene Technology Regulator said last night there was no Australian law that prohibited the export of genetically modified produce.

"It is for the countries in receipt of these products to determine whether they will import the produce and to require appropriate field trials of the product in their countries if they wish," it said in a statement.

On Wednesday The Age revealed that up to half of the genetically engineered canola seeds being grown here in authorised field trials were for US and Canadian commercial seed production.

A spokesman for the federal Minister for Agriculture, Mr Warren Truss, said Australia did not currently allow the sale of GM seed for domestic commercial use, but said it did allow companies to export locally produced GM seeds for breeding programs overseas.

"As we understand it, the canola seed is being exported to have further trials conducted on it in Canada and the US," the spokesman said.

"That's what they asked for when they first asked to do these trials here in Australia: permission to grow the seeds here in order to conduct further trials in the US and Canada," he said.

"This information has been freely available on the gene regulator's website for some time." He said that all commercial grains produced for export in Australia were certified as being GM free by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service.

Two of the world's largest agricultural seed producers, the US-based Monsanto and Aventis, have thousands of hectares of so-called "experimental" GM canola plantations in Australia.

A spokeswoman for the gene regulator said those companies were free to "transfer" back to the US as much GM canola seed as could be produced from those crops.

"Australian authorities cannot do anything to stop those companies transferring the seed within the company, and provided those companies comply with local laws, they are free to use that seed for their own purposes."

Australian law prohibits the sale on the open market of GM organisms not authorised for general release by the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee.


Presenting a slightly different angle to the continuing GM crops debate Down Under for those of you who follow this intrique. It's lovely to see it's all going over to you cool dudes out over the big pond.

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), March 29, 2000

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