Latrobe City Council will host a public forum on biotechnology to provide citizens with an opportunity to hear from and have a discussion with speakers who have a range of views on biotechnology. The forum will take place from at Kernot Hall Morwell on Tuesday 29 April 2003
Latrobe City Mayor, Councillor Graeme Middlemiss, said there were widespread concerns about genetically modified foods, biotechnology and gene technology, while at the same time there was also strong support in certain sectors.
"As a consequence, the Victorian Government made a commitment to facilitate community forums on biotechnology and gene technology. The role of facilitating these forums is being undertaken by the Biotechnology Safety and Ethics Unit, located in Public Health, Department of Human Services, and it is one of these forums that Council is hosting," Cr Middlemiss said.
Four speakers have been chosen by the facilitators to address the forum. Ellen Kittson, manager, Biotechnology Safety and Ethics Unit
Department of Human Services, will speak on Victorian and national regulatory frameworks for gene technology. Alan Broughton, an organic farmer and member of the East Gippsland Organics Association will discuss Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and grower concerns.
Dr Michael Holland, manager, education program CRC for Innovative Dairy Products, will discuss gene technology, what it is, and why it’s considered important; and Dr Alan Howgrave-Graham from the School of Applied Sciences, MonashUniversity, will address biotechnology strategic development for Gippsland.
Cr Middlemiss emphasised that it was important that citizens note that Latrobe City Council has not adopted a position in respect to GM issues.
"While the majority of decisions on the future of GMOs remain with the State and Federal governments, local government is the closest tier of government to communities, and we welcome the opportunity to provide our community with an opportunity to provide input into these issues.
"The nature of the Latrobe community is very different to that of the broadacre farming areas in other regions and states. We know from concerns already raised in our community, from local farmers and the public at large, that there is widespread concern about the introduction of GMOs into the food chain.
"Some of the concerns being voiced include claims that the general and commercial release of genetically engineered crops such as canola, pose significant risks of irreversible genetic contamination of natural and agricultural gene pools.
"Many successful local farmers and graziers are using low input sustainable agriculture, including integrated pest management systems. Many are using organic and biodynamic systems, others are in transition using chemicals only when they find it unavoidable. Many claim herbicide and herbicide tolerant crops would delay, not facilitate, the move towards sustainable production systems in Australian agriculture. A number of our producers are striving for products of an international "Clean and Green" standard and fear a compromise of this status should we take the GM path.
"Consumers have also expressed concerns. They fear genetically engineered foods have no history of safe use and contain substances never in food before, so their long term impacts are unknown. They are concerned that there is limited and insufficient data to know long term environmental health and safety impacts.
"Hopefully, some of these issues can be addressed by the speakers at the forum, so that we can be better informed, and governments can make the right decisions for the future," Cr Middlemiss concluded.
All are welcome at the biotechnology forum. A light supper will be provided. Those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by telephoning LatrobeCity on 1300 367 700.
Further information about the biotechnology forum is available from Leslie Smith at Latrobe City Council, telephone 5128 5667.