Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 8 April 2008) . . Page.. 1150 ..
to the minister rather than using mechanisms with built-in safeguards developed over time with expert advice. Bird flu and equine influenza have been used as examples of such emergencies but, with such a broad definition of threat, an economic threat could be a trigger for an emergency, and the potential for a rushed GMO import could instead lead to a further disaster—of a genetically modified kind. The Greens do not accept that an economic threat would be significant enough alone to justify the release of possibly experimental genetically modified organisms which have not been properly tested and assessed and which may pose an unknown and potentially unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. If this bill is passed today, it would be preferable to confine emergencies to medical emergencies.
In her dissenting report to the federal bill, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert included some examples of the consequences of lack of sufficient testing GMOs:
There are a number of other international examples of the release of genetically engineered organisms resulting in harmful unintended consequences, despite some testing prior to their release. For instance in Brazil GE soya beans incorporating a nut gene produce severe allergic reactions in some people and had to be withdrawn. In the US the release of herbicide tolerant GE crops has led to an escalation of their weed problem, and there is a higher number of people manifesting allergies to GE corn and soya products.
Senator Siewert also questions how a situation might arise where there was a vaccine for a serious livestock disease that posed a major economic threat to Australian livestock that was already in use, for instance in the USA, and yet Australian livestock authorities were not sufficiently forewarned of this threat to get the assessment process underway before there was a major outbreak. She said:
We already have more than enough examples in Australia of hasty interventions were the ‘cure’ has proved a greater problem than the ‘disease’. We do not want to see another repeat of the Cane Toad merely because corners were being cut to minimise economic impacts of a known threat to a particular industry.
Another issue raised by Greenpeace suggested that the findings of the review of the act actually required the emergency provisions to be able to quickly respond to an emergency situation or imminent threat created by the release of a genetically engineered organism, so the emergency situation or imminent threat could actually be created by the release of the genetically engineered organism that was used to avert a threat. Given all the problems that I have just raised, I will not be supporting this bill.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.53): As I said earlier this morning in another debate, upon which I do not reflect, Mr Assistant Speaker, I gave it as a challenge to Dr Foskey to use her vote wisely in support of genetic engineering, and here she is this afternoon, in a bill which is really about regulatory matters around the edges, saying that there are not enough precautions in relation to the creation of genetic crops or genetically modified organisms in the plant world, or even the animal world. But when it comes to the human world, Dr Foskey would not use her vote to ensure that there were more precautions. I think it is ironic that the Greens are prepared to vote, at every turn, against the establishment of genetically modified crops.