CSIRO negligence threatens Australia’s daily bread

Press release - 6 July, 2011

The Australian Government has been found negligent in its approval of genetically modified (GM) wheat trials and human feeding studies, according to a new Greenpeace report released today.

The report,
Australia’s wheat scandal
: The biotech takeover of our daily bread, reveals serious oversights of risks posed by these historic GM wheat trials to Australia’s health, economy and environment.
Trials of potentially unstable GM wheat strains are currently planted in five states and territories across Australia. “Our national science body is being used to advance the corporate and political agenda of foreign biotech companies,” said Greenpeace Food Campaigner Laura Kelly. “The CSIRO is either naïve or complicit in the corporate takeover of our daily bread.”
Greenpeace’s report documents CSIRO’s partnerships with international biotech corporations and raises questions about conflicts of interest involved in the release of GM wheat onto Australian soil.
Two directors of Nufarm, the company with exclusive rights to distribute the products of the
GM giant Monsanto in Australia, were also on the board of the CSIRO when this year’s GM
wheat trials were proposed and approved. CSIRO policy requires that no board member of
CSIRO should become entitled to receive a benefit by reason of a contract made by CSIRO
with a firm the board member represents. (1)
“The national science regulators’ reliance on corporate partnerships has corrupted the kind of thorough risk analysis that would have prevented release of potentially unstable genetically modified wheat across Australia,” said Ms. Kelly.
The Greenpeace report highlights large gaps in the risk analysis on GM wheat, including:
• Lack of specification over which foreign gene has been inserted into the wheat plants;
• Lack of genetic mapping to determine the number of foreign genes inserted or how
stable the resulting GMO is;
• Lack of testing for toxic and allergic effects of GM wheat;
• Failure to provide a credible plan to prevent GM wheat from contaminating in the field.
“The Australian Government’s shonky risk analysis amounts to a green light to global biotech to contaminate Australia’s wheat crop with untested GM organisms,” said Ms. Kelly.
“The economic implications of GM wheat are dire; every one of Australia’s global wheat
market competitors, including Canada, Russia and Europe has rejected GM wheat, because
they were not convinced by global biotech companies that it would not contaminate their
natural wheat crops and threaten their billion dollar export markets.”
There are also alarming health risks associated with GM food.
Dr. George Crisp, a medical practitioner from Perth with a special interest in diabetes, said:
“Our understanding of how genes function and interact is rudimentary to say the least, and we can have no idea what possible consequences for human and environmental health might arise from altering the structure of plant genomes. “Preliminary studies have raised several potential health problems, such as allergy and immune dysfunction, but these remain unstudied and ignored".
Despite the risks, CSIRO will be testing GM wheat from this year’s trials on humans. Publicly
available documents show CSIRO will test GM wheat on Australians in short-term and
superficial trials that run for just one day. They also have no stated intention to test for broader negative health effects such as allergic or toxic reactions.
“CSIRO has rejected Greenpeace’s request for documents outlining the health, safety and
ethical parameters of their human trials. It is outrageous that CSIRO is testing potentially
unstable GM organisms on Australians in secret, with absolutely no public knowledge or
oversight of the risks,” said Ms. Kelly.
“It is time Julia Gillard stood up to global biotech companies and protected Australia’s daily
bread. With public health and our largest food export under threat, this is too big an issue for the Prime Minister to continue to ignore,” said Ms. Kelly.
For more information, contact:
Elsa Evers
0438 204 041
(1) Doug Rathbone has been Nufarm’s Chief Executive and Managing Director since 1982. He served on the board of CSIRO from 2007 until 2010. John Stocker joined Nufarm’s board in 1998. He served as CSIRO’s CEO from 1990-95, Chief Scientist from 1996 to 1999 and returned to CSIRO as Chairman from 2007 until 2010. www.nufarm.com/Directors;
www.csiro.au/files/files/p6ul.pdf; AAP ‘John Stocker is appointed CSIRO Chairman.’ Jul7 2007,; http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/John-Stocker-isappointed-