"There is no future for oil-dependent agriculture", well-known Columban priest and Philippines-based anti-GMO campaigner Brian Gore told the WA launch of Say No to GMO (genetically modified organisms) on April 5.
About 20 people attended the event, which was also addressed by Annie Kavanagh, president of the Organic Growers Association, and Maggie Lilith and Chris Tallentire from WA's Conservation Council.
Gore showed excerpts from his new film, Unjust Genes, which features London-based anti-GMO campaigner Dr Mae-Wan Ho, who warns that GMO crops could lead to "global famine, environmental devastation and massive crop failures".
The Columbans operate two organic demonstration farms in the Philippines, encouraging farmers to plant traditional varieties of rice and corn and extricate themselves from dependency on multinational agricorps. "As oil has gone up, so has the cost of fertilisers", explained Gore.
"We don't need it", argued Gore. "On our traditional farms, good organic practices yield a good crop without depleting the soil or polluting the environment. In economic terms alone, this is superior to hybrid seeds and agro-chemicals or to GMO."
"Bio-tech companies can see there is a fortune to be made out of control of the whole food chain", Gore said. "They're planning for GMO crops to wipe out everything else, and Monsanto and the like will be the sole owners of all food crops, forcing every grower to pay tribute to them."
The speakers highlighted the uncertainty of GMOs' effects on human health and the environment and argued that they are being grown and sold without adequate research. Gore cited the film Safe Food, Safe Planet that investigated the case of GM papaya in Thailand. It escaped from the confines of the experimental farm where it was being trialed, and is now "wild". It has also been shown to possess high allergenic properties.
Gore claimed that the recent scandal around Monsanto's GM corn was just part of a very messy problem. He said that at least one insurance company is refusing to insure anyone involved in GMO production.
Kavanagh said that the current WA moratorium on GMO runs out in 2008. "Say No to GMO is campaigning for a 10-year extension of the moratorium", she said. "We also want mandatory labeling of products containing GM ingredients. We want protection of non-GM crops from GM contamination. Agri-chemical and biotechnology companies and GE users need to be made liable for examination, containment and associated costs."
Lilith warned that although WA agriculture minister Kim Chance has said that the moratorium will continue until 2008, bio-tech companies and some growers' associations are lobbying for the ban to be lifted. The Pastoralists and Graziers Association (Western Grain Growers) has criticised the state government for locking farmers and consumers out of the potential "benefits" of GM technology. In addition, the WA Farmers Federation has this year overturned its previous opposition to GM.
"The pressure is on", concluded Lilith. "It is imperative that consumers act now to support an extension."
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