GM warning on US trade deal

November 15, 2002

Following the announcement yesterday of a proposed Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the United States, Friends of the Earth are warning that such a deal is likely to involve US bullying over Genetically Engineered (GE) crops and food.

Agriculture is expected to be a significant element in the Free Trade Agreement, formal negotiations for which are expected to start soon. The information currently available on trade talks have led to concerns that Australia will be pressured to accept GE crops, as well as GE food imports.

Cam Walker, national liaison officer for Friends of the Earth Australia, said “Any free trade deal with the US should not compromise either existing Australian Quarantine rules or our biosecurity.”

“The US has been locked out of many export markets due to widespread GE contamination and they have been pushing GE heavily as part of their international trade agenda. Nobody wants these risky products, so the US is trying to force them onto other countries through trade bullying. Even US food aid has been rejected due to GMO contamination,” Mr Walker continued.

GE crops have been a disaster for farmers in the US. A recent report by the Soil Association revealed that GE crops cost the US economy over 12 Billion dollars between 1999 and 2001 due to contamination, liability suits and lost market access.

“GE crops will not benefit Australian farmers. As well as problems of herbicide resistance and increase use of chemicals, Australian producers will lose their ‘clean green’ image in international markets,” Mr Walker said.

A recent Friends of the Earth publication on GMO contamination in food (1) has identified contamination both in the field and in the human food chain. Any trade agreement that opens the door to increased use of GMOs will only lead to problems, now and in the future.

"In regards to export agriculture, Australia needs to keep up with global consumer trends, with a growing preference for non GMO products. But research shows once GMO’s are released commercially, contamination is inevitable. There will be no going back."

"GE food has not been proven to be safe to humans, GE crops are a huge environmental risk, and they do not benefit farmers."

Friends of the Earth is calling for:

  • A 5 year moratorium on GM commercial crops, pending rigorous scientific analysis
  • Segregation and labeling of imported GM foods from harvest; with clear tracking from the field to the supermarket shelf.
  • An international ban on the use of antibiotic resistant gene markers
  • Public participation in GM decisions, including when and where testing and trials may take place
  • A global ban on "Terminator" seed technology
  • Comprehensive and culturally sensitive review of patent laws to prevent biopiracy

Further information:

Cam Walker
0419 338 047


(1) GMO Contamination Around the World