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Japanese Groups Lobby Australian States over Biotech

Groups from Japan say they don't want Australia to lift its moratorium on raising biotech crops.

A Japanese delegation is in Australia to deliver a petition to State Premiers from groups who represent over 2.9 million Japanese consumers, requesting an extension to the moratoria on GM food crops.

The States are currently reviewing the moratoria, which are due to expire next year, and are facing growing pressure from farm and science leaders to drop the ban on genetically modified crops.

But the Japanese delegation from the 'No! GMO Campaign', an alliance of over 80 Japanese consumer groups, farmers groups and 300 individuals, says lifting the moratoria would damage Australia's reputation in the international market.

"Australia is the only country that can supply GE free canola to food-importing countries like Japan," Ryoko Shimizu, steering committee member of the No! GMO campaign, said.

"If the moratoria are lifted it would damage the reputation of Australian crops in Japan and Japanese consumers would stop buying Australian crops.

"We are concerned that the relationships which we have worked so hard to cultivate, between Australian farmers and Japanese consumers, would collapse."

Ms Shimizu also works for the Seikatsu Club Consumers' Co-operative Union (SCCU), which now imports 3500 metric tons of canola from Australia per year because of Australia's GM-free status.

Before buying canola from Australia, the SCCU purchased their canola from Canada until the country began growing GM varieties and could no longer guarantee conventional canola was free from GM contamination.

The group is being supported by Australian-based activists from Greenpeace.

"Once released into the environment GE crops are impossible to contain and will lead to the inevitable contamination of our fields and our food," Greenpeace GM campaigner Louise Sales said.

"State Governments should protect our environment, our health and our industries by extending their GE bans."

SOURCE: Queensland Country Life, the Australian weekly rural newspaper.

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