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article imageDrug companies lobby for expansion of opium poppy growing

By Tim Sandle     Mar 21, 2014 in Business
To meet a growing demand for painkillers a number of drug companies are calling on the Australian government to expand opium poppy growing.
The ‘big pharma’ companies involved are GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and TPI Enterprises of Australia. According to the Financial Times, the companies want the Australian government to expand the opium poppy growing industry's exclusive license beyond the island of Tasmania to mainland Australia.
The growth of opium poppies is regulated by the United Nations, and for decades, the Australian government has given its exclusive license to Tasmania, creating a monopoly that yields 49% of the world’s supply of opiate-based pain relief.
The reason for the controls is that while opium poppies provide basic pain relief ingredients, such as morphine and codeine, they can also be used for illegal drugs, such as heroin, which is why, as the ABC News points out, poppy crops were originally kept isolated on Tasmania.
However, the Tasmanian poppy industry is opposed to the expansion. Farmers make around $120 million a year growing the narcotic plants. The farmers warn that the problems with crops on the mainland are bigger than the risks to their market share.
If Australia does not expand production, pharmaceutical companies are ‘warning’ the country risks losing its status in painkiller market, according to Money News.
More about Opium, Poppy, Drugs, Australia, Tasmania
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