australia: Three of the country's eight states recently halted the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) food crops. Another state, Tasmania, had already placed a moratorium on such cultivation in 2001, which was extended last year till 2008.
On April 1, New South Wales (NSW) shot down trials of GM canola on 3,000 hectares (ha). A week ago, Western Australia had banned GM food crops and Victoria had extended its moratorium (imposed in May 2003) for four years. However, NSW agriculture minister Ian Macdonald said he would allow three small scientific trials on 420 ha. Expressing shock at the developments, Tony Coulepis, executive director, AusBiotech, Australia's biotechnology industry organisation, said: "The decision will impact the competitiveness of Australia's technology, and the confidence and support of local researchers."
uk: Five years into a clamorous public debate on GM crops, the UK has conditionally cleared the commercial cultivation of the first transgenic product. Chardon LL, a GM maize variety used for cattle feed and produced by a unit of agro-company Bayer, has been given the green light for cultivation.
Secretary of state for environment Margaret Beckett announced this on March 9 in parliament. The crop will not be planted before the spring of 2005. But environmental groups have opposed the decision, alleging that gentler herbicides were used for GM varieties in the field-scale trials.
brazil: Empraba, the premier crop research agency of Brazil, has announced the development of its own GM soyabean variety. This would compete with Roundup Ready Soybean of Monsanto, which is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. The new soyabean is resistant to the herbicide Imidazolinone. The Brazilian government hopes this would help in building opinion in favour of GM crops and prevent cultivation of transgenic crops smuggled from Argentina.
Brazil has also witnessed a highly charged debate on GM crops. On March 11, an International People's Tribunal was organised in Porto Alegre by more than 40 social movements and non-governmental organisations.
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