Gene Scene was contributed by Paula Fitzgerald from Agrifood Awareness Australia. This is an industry initiative established to increase public awareness of, and encourage informed debate about, gene technology. The organisation is supported by four peak bodies, including the GRDC.
OVER THE past l2 months, the concept of GE-free zones emerged across Australia, particularly at a shire council level. Shire councils became very involved in the gene technology debate with many holding public meetings to discuss the issue of gene technology and, in some cases, to form a council policy on the issue.
For the vast majority of councils that declared their area as 'GE-free', many did not really understand what it was they were trying to achieve. For example, many councillors were unaware that gene technology was impacting on their lives through medicines and foods, and were focused only on gene technology in agriculture. Others were unsure about the process of how a GM crop progresses from a scientific concept to a commercial reality, including the role of field trials, and the consultation that takes place prior to field trial approvals.