questions + answers
- What is genetic engineering (GE)?
- How does it differ from cross-breeding or other forms of biotechnology?
- Which foods are currently genetically engineered?
- Who is behind GE foods?
- Are GE crops grown in Australia?
- How do GE crops affect the environment?
- What are the health concerns?
- Are GE crops good for farmers?
- Will GE crops feed the world?
- Are GE foods labelled?
- What is organic food?
- Why is animal feed important?
- Does GE food have any health benefits?
Unfortunately, Australia already allows the commercial growing of genetically engineered canola and cotton, making us one of only a handful of countries that commercially grow GE crops. GE canola was commercially released in NSW and Victoria in 2008.
There have been close to 900 experimental trials of other GE crops in Australia.
Monsanto and Bayer have applied to commercially grow GE canola across Australia. In 2008, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GE canola was commercially released in NSW and Victoria.
Bans in the other canola-growing states (South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia) still prevent GE canola from being grown there. The canola variety is genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. The introduction of GE canola in North America has led to a marked increase in herbicide use and the development of herbicide resistant weeds. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready canola also caused increased liver sizes of up to 16% when it was fed to rats in Monsanto’s own study.
Canola oil is used in a wide range of processed foods and the meal can be fed to livestock such as chicken, pigs and dairy cattle.
The GE cotton grown in the north (NSW and Queensland only) is known as “Bt cotton”. It uses a gene derived from a bacteria called Bacillus Thuringensis (Bt), which produces a protein that kills the cotton bollworm. Produced in every part of the Bt cotton plant, the toxins act as an internal insecticide. Monsanto’s herbicide-resistant GE cotton is also grown.
Bt cotton is not only used for cloth and cotton products — the cottonseed is also crushed for oil used in food and cotton “trash” is fed to Australian cattle that produce our milk and meat. Some food companies, such as Heinz Watties and Unilever, have taken steps to ensure milk used in their foods is from cows not fed GE cotton trash.
Over 800 trials of GE crops have been conducted in Australia, including GE wheat, sugar cane, grapes, pineapples, papaya, and bananas.
While these are experimental trials, the crops are grown on farmland in the open air, posing contamination risks to both the environment and non-GE farmland.