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Spliced Bread: Our Sandwiches Under Attack!

Another day, another battle for Australia's environmental and agricultural integrity.  Not only do we have to fight to get GE foods labelled and reverse the backslide on GE canola, now it's the GE wheat wrecking-ball we have to hold back. No less a fundamental food than the sandwich is at risk.  This is an attack on Aussie lunchboxes and the great Aussie outback landscape. 

Greenpeace has launched a critical report detailing the development of genetically engineered (GE) wheat in Australia. The findings show if GE wheat prevails, it will have a widespread impact on Australian consumers, farmers, the economy and the environment. We need to act now, before GE wheat is on Australian supermarket shelves in everyday foods like bread, pasta and breakfast cereals.

Vested interests

Having failed to win approval from farmers and consumers in Canada and the US since 2004, the chemical companies vying to control global food production have brought their GE wheat campaign to our shores.  They see Australia's regulatory framework as weak and our market ripe for for the taking. 

While the Australian Government increases trials of GE wheat, multinational chemical companies are gaining control of Australia’s wheat industry. In 2010, the Australian Government’s gene regulator approved over 1,300 lines of GE wheat for trial in fields across the country.  At the same time, Monsanto purchased a 20% stake in one of Australia’s largest wheat breeding companies, Intergrain, which used to be run by the WA state government.  Monsanto, owner of 90% of the world’s GE crops, is in a global joint venture with transnational chemical company BASF to develop GE wheat and other crops.

These companies say that GE is the solution to drought, salinity and the impacts of climate change.  But the evidence just does not stack up.  Most genuine gains have come from conventional plantbreeding and Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), its just that the biotech companies force their commercially profitable GE traits, like herbicide resistance, onto the farmer as well.  But what else would you expect from chemical companies? 

There is a lack of independent, long-term research into the human health and environmental impacts of GE.  The companies that hold the patents on these crops actively seek to stifle genuine study and debate.  The evidence we do have from tests on animals links GE with allergic reactions, organ damage and reduced fertility.  We also know that GE plants operate differently in the field than they do in the lab, that they are unstable and are likely to have unpredictable impacts on our environment.

Our government relies on the very same companies who develop GE seeds to verify the risks to human health and the environment posed by those crops.  That’s a bit like relying on cigarette companies to assure us that smoking is safe.



The way forward

Wheat is the world's second largest crop after corn and Australia’s most important staple food.  Allowing chemical companies to control our food supply is not a reliable way to guarantee future food security or to safeguard against health and environmental risks.

The government has a responsibility to invest in sustainable agricultural solutions to the very real food security risks we face.  The CSIRO has been a great resource, but its research needs to be funded by government not multinationals and it needs to retain the precautionary principle.  We support advances in biotechnology that utilise natural processes and that undergo thorough, long-range testing for human and environmental safety.

One industry the biotechs don't control is manufacturing.  Domestic food manufacturers can help guard against the threat of GE wheat; Kellogg’s for example, which makes over 40% of our breakfast cereals.  Australian bread manufacturers like Goodman Fielder and George Weston already tell us they're against GE and they need the support of consumers and the Australian public to maintain this stance.

Rather than investing in uncertain GE crops, Australia needs to strengthen its ecological farming techniques and secure a safe food future.  It is up to the people who make the food, and who buy it, to prevent further erosion of Australia's food integrity.

Read the GE Splice Bread Report (pdf 1MB)

Take Action

Lobby your federal MP They represent you in parliament and it is their democratic responsibility to meet with you and hear your views. If you're in a wheat growing area, tell them not to give your region up to chemical companies with appalling records on corporate responsibility.  Wherever you are, tell them that 90% of Australians want to know if there are GM organisms in their food.

Send an email to the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, demanding that all GM products be labelled. 

And write a letter to your local newspaper driving home the message and keeping this issue on the agenda.

Listen to GE Wheat panel discussion at the launch of the Spliced Bread report here

GE Wheat Panel Discussion at launch of Spliced Bread Report by greenpeaceaustp

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