Mothers Against Genetic Engineering (MAdGE) and the Gene Ethics Network launched a campaign on February 28 for local councils in Victoria to declare themselves genetically manipulated (GM) food-free zones. The campaign, launched at a protest rally on the steps of the state parliament, is in response to the Premier John Brumby's decision to end Victoria's ban on GM canola on February 29.
Victoria will be the only Australian state or territory to permit GM canola to be grown, unrestricted and unregulated, and sold without a GM label. South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT have decided to keep their GM crop bans. NSW will allow commercial GM canola to be grown on a case-by-case basis.
The protesters also called on the Brumby Labor government to extend the ban on commercial GM-herbicide-tolerant canola for at least five more years. Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps told the rally that "Canadian experience shows Bayer — the world's biggest agro chemical company — and Monsanto — the world's biggest seed company — will capture over 90% of any profits by collecting maximum royalties and fees on patented GM canola seed and weed killers.
"Yet the state kowtows to these GM giants that will not even be liable for the inevitable damage to public health, the environment or markets that GM canola will cause. Brumby ignores the immediate, permanent and irreversible impacts of GM canola on the spurious promise of drought-tolerant plants and fart-free pastures to solve global climate change in 10 years time, if ever."
MAdGE spokesperson Frances Murrell pointed out that Monsanto was running its campaign in support of GM food through "stooge organisations" such as the Victorian Farmers Federation. She called for farmers who are against GM food to break away from the VFF and form an alternative farmers' organisation.