Newcastle today became a dumping ground for genetically engineered American grain rejected by other countries, according to Newcastle Greens.
Greens Councillor Ian McKenzie condemned the complicity of the Carr Labor government and the Howard Liberal government in allowing the first shipment of genetically engineered (GE) grain into Australia through the Port of Newcastle today.
“In allowing the Ocean Emperor to skulk into Newcastle harbour under the cover of early morning darkness to unload 20,000 tonnes of United States GE corn for chicken feed, our governments – state and federal – have failed in their most basic duty of protecting Australian citizens,” Cr McKenzie said.
“Unlike European consumers, Australian consumers will not be told what products have used this genetically engineered material, despite surveys showing that 93% of Australian shoppers want all GE food labelled, and that an overwhelming majority (65%) do not want genetically modified food at all.
“The effects of these materials on animals and humans is unknown. Toad and bacteria genes have been used in genetically engineered corn, and in the US, breeding cows fed GE corn containing insect toxin have failed to conceive.
“Other national governments (e.g., Europe and Japan) reject US corn on environmental, human and animal health concerns. Even developing countries such as India and Zambia have rejected such imports.
“In Australia, the Tasmanian government has acted on these concerns, and has declared that state GE free. Similar processes are underway in South Australia and Western Australia. Why has the Carr Government failed to act? What are our local Federal and State parliamentarians (Coalition and Labor) doing about this?
“People are entitled to ask what kind of crazy double-standard is operating here? Under the guise of border protection, the Carr and Howard governments have gone to extreme lengths to combat potential terrorism on our shores, and to reject people arriving in Australia fleeing political oppression, but these same governments now conspire to permit potentially dangerous genetically engineered food to infiltrate our country without so much as a whimper,” Cr McKenzie said.
“The difference, of course, is that multi-national corporations stand to earn massive profits from genetically engineered food, and that the US government is backing these corporations.”
Cr McKenzie said that The Greens would be using this year’s state election to apply pressure on the Carr Government to act more responsibly in relation to genetically modified organisms, and that he would be seeking support from Newcastle Council to declare Newcastle GE-Free.
“As with the council’s commitment many years ago to become a Nuclear Free city, this would make it clear that the people of Newcastle do not want their port to become an entry point for genetically modified food or organisms,” Cr McKenzie said.