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South Australia Holds Parliamentary GE Inquiry

South Australia will be the first state in Australia to hold a Parliamentary inquiry into the effects of genetic engineering. John Howard reports.

The effects of genetically modified food and cloning will be investigated by a South Australian parliamentary committee.

The issue has been referred to the Social Development Committee after a unanimous vote in the House of Assembly this week - making SA the first Parliament in Australia to investigate the controversial issue.

The Liberal MP, Caroline Schaefer, is chair of the committee and she said she hoped to commence the inquiry into biotechnological issues in June or July but could not predict how long it would take.

"With something like genetic engineering, where things can change almost on a daily basis, it is very hard to put a time frame on it," she said.

Another Liberal MP, Dr Bob Such, said he was seeking an informed, rational discussion and analysis with appropriate recommendations "on how we cope with what is a significant and major revolution occuring right at this very time."

"We do not have an adequate social or legal framework to deal with what is emerging, not only in the agricultural area but also in the human area and the wider community," Dr Such said.

"We are lacking an education program, while Canada has done a lot of work, particularly to inform school children about genetically modified food. In Australia, we have done nothing of that magnitude," he said.

A protest against GE food was staged on the steps of Parliament on Wednesday and the issue has been raised at the Federal level with Prime Minister John Howard ruling out the labelling of genetically modified food on the grounds of cost. Protesters are calling for a moritorium on GE food.

Dr Such said, "We also need to look at the bigger issues such as whether people, scientists, companies and researchers are playing God by interfering with nature."

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