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Greens Matter of Public Importance - Threat to Tasmania's GMO-free status

8 August 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

 

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to correct a number of falsehoods and slurs that have been made by previous members.

First, I put on the record that the Tasmanian Greens warmly welcome and strongly support the Government's 10-year moratorium on GMOs. It is important for this state, for our 'clean green' brand. It is important to put on the record that this has always had, and will continue to have, tripartisan support in this place. Why we have tri-partisan support is because all parties can agree, regardless of what we individually or as a party believe from an ideological, theatrical, politicking point of view. The points we have heard from Dr Broad representing the Labor Party's view might make ideological statements about whether they believe there is any issue with genetically modified organisms, despite the disagreement amongst some parties about the science and where scientists lie in terms of the impacts on human health of genetically modified organisms. Every single member in this place and all parties agree that it would be devastating for Tasmania's export markets if we lost our GM status, because countries, especially the European Union and China, value our GM-free status. It is one of our huge marketing advantages in the world. That point is utterly lost on the Labor Party.

It is absolutely irresponsible for Dr Broad to stand here and to ignore the risks to our export markets from what this federal government change will mean to the authenticity of the brand, 'genetically modified free Tasmania'. That is a brand which is so important to European Union markets, and so important to the Chinese.

What we have is a situation where the federal regulator has talked about the science of this particular form of SDN-1 gene engineering technology, and they have made a decision. Leaving aside whether it is right or wrong - I will come back to that - they have decided that organisms that are SDN-1 engineered will not be classified as genetically modified. That regulator did not look at the market impact of deregulation. They did not consult with farmers. They did not consult with companies that export to the European Union and to China, because the European Union does not accept their version of whether that is genetically modified. They believe that SDN-1 engineering techniques are a form of genetic modification. That is the point. The Greens are standing up for an authentic brand in Tasmania. Why the Labor Party does not understand that is beyond me, but I plead with the minister to listen much more clearly to his staff, because I know they were briefed by the scientists who went to the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture's GMO forum that was held in April in Launceston, and in Hobart, about science technology and marketing for GMO products. They heard from the scientists from Europe, New Zealand and Australia. They all talked about the complexity of this area, and about their concerns for the marketing impact and export for Tasmania, because of the market implications of Australia taking a position that SDN-1 is not a genetically engineering technique. The scientists do not agree on this.

We in this place do not get to decide the science of that issue. We are not even here to discuss whether it has human health impacts. That is an issue many people are concerned about, and the Greens speak for those people, but we also speak for all Tasmanians who want an authentic brand, and who want to make sure this Government is doing everything it can to ensure that we do not lose that.

The Liberal minister must speak to his federal colleagues and plead with the Liberal Senators to look at supporting the motion that the Greens Senator Janet Rice will bring in to disallow that, because they put Tasmania first.

We must look to the future and understand the implications for our markets. Why this has not percolated down, I do not understand, but there is still time to make that change. We can do that for our future, for the European Union, because they will not accept the Australian regulators' decision. They have already made their own decision. They do not agree that it is not genetic engineering; they believe it is. They believe there are risks in mutations. They believe that the naïve lay person's idea that you just 'snip little bits of DNA' is rubbish, because it is so much more complicated, and there are so many unintended consequences that cannot be controlled.

Dr Broad - Like?

Dr WOODRUFF - What our federal regulator is doing is taking no monitoring, Dr Broad. They will not monitor what happens at all in research in Australia. That is the concern. There are no checks and balances. That is the issue, Dr Broad. Surely you would understand.

Dr Broad - Where is the risk?

Dr WOODRUFF - Surely you would understand. Put aside your ideological hatred of the Greens for the moment and look at the issue, which is our export markets. Our authentic brand.