Australia stricter on GM crop tests

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Genetically modified crops, Genetically modified food, Gm

New Australian laws on testing genetically modified crops will
force companies to reveal the location of secret trials except in
very limited cases,...

New Australian laws on testing genetically modified crops will force companies to reveal the location of secret trials except in very limited cases, a new gene technology watchdog reported on June 21. According to Liz Cain, the government's acting Gene Technology Regulator, about 120 genetically modified (GM) crop field trials had been approved in Australia under interim arrangements but their sites had not been disclosed. However she said new laws, which came into effect on June 21, meant the location of GM experiments by companies such as Monsanto Co. and Aventis, which dominate Australia's crop trials, could only be kept secret if proved to be "commercial in confidence."​ Cain said the regulator would release the trial site information unless companies could show there would be damage to the environment, to human health and safety or to property as a if the crop locations were made known. Companies also have to prove that revealing a crop site is not in the public interest to ensure site information is kept secret. There has been much criticism on how to handle the risks of trials of mutant plant varieties, with fears under the new law that tests for bigger and better crops could damage existing farming practices. According to Bob Phelps, spokesman for the Australian Conservation Foundation, "the law is flawed, like the failed voluntary system it replaces, leaving the environment and public health at risk."​ Concerns about the secrecy surrounding GM crops peaked this year when the voluntary guidelines were breached in South Australia and Tasmania after GM seed was spread to other crops on the clothes of workers. Genetically engineered varieties of some 20 crops, such as wheat, soybean, corn and rapeseed, are being grown on 44 million hectares of land in 13 countries, including Australia. A total of 120 GM crop field trials, each with several sites around Australia, had been approved under an interim voluntary monitoring system but their sites had not been disclosed. "About half of them are going to lodge a request for their site locations to be treated as commercial in confidence information,"​ Cain said. Source: Reuters

Related topics: Policy

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars