Sydney, Australia – Reacting to the Victorian Premier John Brumby’s statement championing genetically engineered (GE) wheat as a solution to drought at a conference in the US, Greenpeace has accused the biotechnology industry of using the drought as an opportunity to foist GE crops on a justifiably suspicious public. Louise Sales, Genetic Engineering Campaigner with Greenpeace says “Genetically engineered wheat is not grown commercially anywhere in the world nor accepted by any market, which is why even major GE crop producers such as the US and Canada have rejected it. Consumers simply do not want GE in their daily bread – and with good reason – there is growing evidence that GE crops are harmful to the environment and may be harmful to human health.”

“The biotechnology industry thinks it can use drought tolerant GE crops to overcome consumer resistance to GE crops. However there are better techniques to develop drought tolerant crops that don’t pose the same unacceptable risk to human health and the environment. The real reason the biotechnology industry wants use GE is that it can then patent the seed – requiring farmers to buy new seed every year” she added

Safe drought resistant crops can be developed using either traditional breeding or modern biotechnology techniques such as marker assisted selection (MAS). MAS does not result in a GE crop, but utilises our knowledge of DNA and the genome to breed new plant varieties. MAS has already been successfully used to develop non-GE drought tolerant canola in Victoria, which should be available to farmers this year.

A recent UN report, produced by over 400 of the world’s leading scientists acknowledged that GE crops are highly controversial and will not play a substantial role in addressing the key problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger and poverty.

Contacts Louise Sales, Genetic Engineering Campaigner: 0438 679 263 Ruchira Talukdar, Media Officer: 0407 414 572 Notes to Editor

1. Victorian Government (2006) Media Release: Victorian scientist develop drought tolerant canola, 2. International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) final report