Victoria and NSW have decided to lift their bans on genetically modified canola crops without the comprehensive scientific research to support the move, opponents say.
They say the two state governments have disproportionately relied on the advice of GM technology supporters and on information that plays down safety and environmental concerns.
The Victorian and NSW governments released reports justifying their moves, saying allowing GM crops would provide economic benefits.
But opponents said the decision was based on limited information.
“One of the problems is the tests that are done are almost always essentially done by the GM crop companies that hope to make a lot of money out of those crops,” Flinders University epidermologist Dr Judy Carmen told ABC Television.
Dr Carmen said more testing was needed before any benefits could be advocated without reservations.
She said neither canola, nor a strain of cotton genetically modified to be resistant to insects, had been as rigorously tested as it could be.
“This comes into the human food supply in the form of cotton seed oil,” Dr Carmen said.
“It is interesting because in both that case and also in canola, the bit that you and I eat, which is actually the oil aspect of that crop, has not been safety assessed at all,” she said.
She said there were no human or animal studies required before CSIRO scientists were able to say the technology-affected food was safe to eat.
Chief Scientist Dr Jim Peacock of the CSIRO has previously urged Australia to go down the GM path.
“If Australia rejects the technology I don’t see us remaining able to compete in the global scale of agribusiness,” Dr Peacock said in an earlier ABC Landline interview, played by The 7.30 Report.
The 7.30 Report said Dr Peacock had declined to be interviewed. Instead, CSIRO plant industry chief Dr Jeremy Burdon spoke, defending his colleague’s expertise and support for lifting a ban on GM technology.
“One of the icons of CSIRO, he (Dr Peacock) has been a major leader in plant science on the global world stage for virtually his entire career,” Dr Burdon said.
“(Dr Peacock) was always very interested in and concerned to make sure that any science that we did was safe.”
But former CSIRO agronomist Dr Martin Stapper said the organisation wasn’t interested in hearing his concerns about GM technology.
“First I was told that I was not allowed to talk in public about it because I was not a geneticist,” Dr Stapper said.
“And if I would talk about it I would be fired.
“But (I) asked the question all the time: `Give me your study of multi-generation animal feeding study, and I believe that it is safe if I see a four generation animal feeding study’.
“But they never showed me that. And they never instigated a trial like that because they know that it gives negatives. And they don’t want to see that.”
Dr Stapper was made redundant, the ABC said.
Japan also had expressed concern about Australia allowing GM canola.
“If Australian farmers start growing GMO canola it would be a very big problem for us,” Japan’s spokeswoman Ryoko Shimizu, whose country imports 450,000 tonnes of Australian canola each year, said.