Tasmania’s poppy industry pushes to lift GMO ban

Tasmania’s isolation and wilderness once made it a dumping ground for the British Empire’s convicts. But these same qualities, and a small population of just over half a million people, make the island one of the cleanest places on earth.

Now, with fewer and fewer places in the world free from genetically modified farming and the innovations it brings, the pristine environment is under threat.

The state government says it is planning legislation to extend the ban on genetically modified farming when it expires later this year. But Tasmania’s powerful poppy industry, the world’s largest supplier of pharmaceutical grade opiates for painkillers, is strongly lobbying for the moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMO) to be lifted.

Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Tasmanian Alkaloids, GlaxoSmithKline and Australia’s privately-held TPI Enterprises, who share a A$120 million ($113 million) oligopoly, see a major threat looming as Victoria state on the mainland recently indicated it wanted to allow production of genetically modified poppies.

That throws open the prospect of tough competition and Tasmanian poppy farms losing out on cost-savings just as global demand for painkillers surges.

“There is a threat,” said Tasmanian Alkaloids field operator Rick Rockliff, whose factory in the state’s northwest processes around 80 percent of the world’s thebaine poppies, the main ingredient in slow-release pain medication. “I would hope our government wouldn’t sit on their hands and let that happen.”

Read the full, original article: Even in isolated, pristine Tasmania, pressure to allow GMO farming

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