Australian farmers highlight GE dangers

Two Australian farmers visited the Marlborough Farmers’ Market yesterday to share their first-hand experience of genetically engineered crops in their communities. Seed farmers Bob Mackley, of Victoria, and Julie Newman, of Western Australia, are both strongly against genetically engineered food, saying it can damage a farm’s reputation and divide communities.

They said genetic engineering of crops effectively passed control of a country’s seed supply to the government rather than being in the hands of farmers. The pair discussed issues of liability, co-existence between GE and non-GE farmers and the contamination problems already occurring in Victoria and Western Australia.

Marlborough-based Green Party list-MP Steffan Browning brought the Australians to Blenheim as part of an 11-day tour of New Zeland.  He wanted Marlburians to hear and learn about the risks of GE crops.  Ms Newman said there was massive consumer rejection of GE produce.  Ten years in the marketing industry taught Mr Mackley that any business that didn’t listen to its customers deserved to fail, he said.

Ms Newman said it was up to non-GE farmers to keep genetically engineered crops out of the supply chain. “Farmers and consumers must maintain that choice of non-GE produce,” she said. “Governments and scientists should not be trying to remove that choice.”  Health issues, such as infertility and organ damage, were associated with GE crops, Ms Newman claimed.

Mr Mackley said farmers with non-GE crops had access to all markets and had an opportunity to maximise their price. “There are markets that do not accept GE food while others accept it, but at a lower price.”  Mr Browning said there was increasing pressure to begin growing GE crops in New Zealand and that farmers needed to hear the warnings of the Australian pair.

With the pressure on to release the first GE crops in New Zealand, it’s time to examine what impact they could have on our clean, green economy and marketing advantage,” he said. What can we learn from the experience of our Australian neighbours about how the introduction of GE crops will affect our agricultural industry and New Zealand’s economy?”

Ms Newman said New Zealand should be learning from the world’s mistakes, not following them.

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