06/12/2005 - 13:19

Minister announces GM reference group

06/12/2005 - 13:19

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Agriculture Minister Kim Chance today announced the membership of a Ministerial reference group that will explore issues relating to genetically modified crops and the status of GM technology.

Minister announces GM reference group

Agriculture Minister Kim Chance today announced the membership of a Ministerial reference group that will explore issues relating to genetically modified crops and the status of GM technology.

Mr Chance said the group, made up of representatives from industry, education and science organisations and marketers, would report to the Government with expert advice on the use of biotechnology in Western Australia's agricultural crops.

The state government has strictly opposed the use of GM food crops in WA but has been backing field trials of GM cotton in the Ord River irrigation district in the Kimberly, which have produced highly positive results.

Members of the reference group include representatives from WA Farmers, Pastoralists' and Graziers' Association, CBH-Handling, CBH-Marketing, Department of Agriculture, Bio Farmers Australia, Concerned Farmers Australia, a GM scientific expert, a farmer nominee and a market analyst. The group will be chaired by a State Government MP.

"The Ministerial Industry Reference Group will provide advice on logistical, agronomic and marketing issues relevant to the use of biotechnology in agriculture, a key policy area for the agriculture portfolio," Mr Chance said.

"The Gallop Government renewed its commitment to a moratorium on the commercial use of GM crops in agriculture at the last election, based on the need to preserve WA's advantage of producing crops that can be marketed as non-GM. Another commitment at the election was the formation of an advisory group, which we have now fulfilled.

"The reference group will be helpful in informing Government on the current status of GM crop technology and its relevance to WA, and in providing advice on the effect of the GM Crops Free Areas Act 2003."

The Minister said the focus of the reference group would be to assess issues associated with production, supply chain, management and the marketability of GM crops in comparison with non-GM crops.

He said the group would also assess acceptable levels of tolerance of GM presence in WA food crops, and how to effectively segregate seed and harvested grain in order to preserve the identity of GM and non-GM crops.

"Experts on the group will also examine such matters as liability and insurance issues raised by dealings with GMOs, and the adequacy of the legal framework that governs GMOs in the event of the adoption of GM technology," Mr Chance said.

A specialist advisory group will also be formed to provide specific input to the Reference Group within areas of their particular expertise. It will include representatives from the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, AWB Landmark, Conservation Council of WA, World Wildlife Fund and Grains Research and Development Corporation (Western Panel).

Mr Chance said the moratorium on the general commercial use of GM crops in agriculture would remain in place in WA until all relevant issues had been addressed.

"The Gallop Government is protecting and enhancing WA's unique lifestyle," he said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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