Tougher legislation on the labelling of genetically modified foods in Europe could have a strong impact on Australian farmers keen to enter European markets unless the government acts on genetically modified (GM) crops, the Labour opposition party to the Australian government said on Tuesday.
Opposition primary industries spokesman Kerry O'Brien said the government was conducting a three-year study into how GM and non-GM crops could be segregated. But the nation's GM regulator has less than 170 days in which to make a ruling on an application by two multi-national firms to grow genetically altered canola. Monsanto and Aventis have lodged applications with the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) to grow GM canola on trial sites across Australia.
The OGTR has 170 days in which to consider the applications which are the first for a general or commercial release of GM canola. Last year the government began a three-year study into the feasibility of segregating GM and non-GM produce to satisfy demands from markets such as the EU which demand genetically modified-free goods. Senator O'Brien said the government had been caught out by the pace of GM technology and the pressure on the OGTR to approve GM crops.
"In the absence of scientific certainty that we can successfully segregate GM from non-GM produce, we could find that markets such as the EU are closed to Australian farmers and food processors,"he said in a statement."The Howard government's confused and uncoordinated approach to GM crops has been exposed by Monsanto's application."
Senator O'Brien said it would be almost impossible for the OGTR to properly consider the GM canola applications when the government's study was still some time off from completion.