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Transgenic U.S. corn goes to Australia: two stories

(Thursday, Jan. 9, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Mark Metherell, Sydney Morning Herald via Agnet: A 48,000-tonne shipment of US corn likely to contain genetically modified (GM) grain is, according to this story, to be crushed and steamed to prevent the uncontrolled spread of GM seed in Australia.

The grain, imported for poultry food, is due to arrive in Brisbane by sea this morning. It is the first shipment of corn subjected to Australia's GM safeguards.

The story says that the unusual import of the grain has been triggered by feed shortages caused by the drought.

But the anti-GM group, the GeneEthics Network, has called on the Australian Government to send the shipment back as GM-free supplies were available.

A Health Department spokeswoman was cited as saying the corn would be milled, steamed and made into pellets in a high-security process which would prevent GM seed germinating in Australia.

She said GM elements would be destroyed by the process and there was no scientific evidence to suggest the GM content would pass on to the poultry.

Australian Consumers Association head, Louise Sylvan, was cited as saying that even if there was no GM residue in resulting human food, consumers had a right to know GM ingredients were used in food production and this was not provided for by Australia's labelling laws.


Meanwhile... (Thursday, Jan. 9, 2003 – CropChoice news) -- AP: The first shipment of U.S.-grown genetically modified feed corn arrived in Australia on Thursday to protests by activists.

Part of the shipment of 50,000 metric tons (55,000 short tons) was offloaded in the northeastern city of Brisbane amid strict quarantine guidelines. The remainder was to be delivered to Newcastle and Melbourne.

The corn — which will be used as chicken feed for meat-producing poultry — was shipped amid a drought that has devastated crops across Australia. It was the first grain to be imported into Australia since the mid-1990s.

Activists opposed to genetically modified foods warned that the potential economic and health risks of the maize were too great.

Genetically modified or GM crops are plants whose genes are manipulated in order to produce desirable characteristics, such as resistance to pests.

GeneEthics Network director Bob Phelps said Australia should follow the example of other countries and reject the grain.

"Japan and Europe reject U.S. corn over environmental, human, and animal health concerns, and India and Zambia will not accept it as food aid," Phelps said. "We therefore call on the Australian government to send this ship and its suspect load back to the U.S.A.."

Phelps said accepting the shipment could pose economic risks for Australia because importers from Europe and some Asian countries reject foods such as meat, milk, eggs and honey from animals fed on GM grains.