FARMERS will have the choice to use genetically-modified food crops from next season, with the SA government announcing today that it will lift the ban.
The decision to lift the GM Food Crops Moratorium on mainland SA, but retain it on Kangaroo Island, follows recommendations from a high-level independent review undertaken by Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson AC and released in February.
A statutory six-week consultation will begin today and following its completion the government will introduce new regulations giving farmers choice and lifting the GM moratorium across mainland SA.
Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said the Anderson Review found the GM moratorium in SA provided no price premium compared with GM crop growing neighbouring states.
"The Anderson Review found the moratorium has cost SA graingrowers at least $33 million since 2004 and will cost farmers at least a further $5m if extended to 2025, harming this state's ability to attract investment in agricultural research and development," he said.
"Considering the future economic impact on farmers, it is time to lift the moratorium on the mainland and provide farmers choice on crops they seek to grow.
"This reform will help increase farm profitably and drought resilience, create job opportunities in our regions, grow the state's economy and attract greater research investment.
"Given the moratorium was justified by the former Labor Government for marketing and trade purposes and the review found there is no premium for SA grain when comparing data on prices from neighbouring states, it is time our farmers are rightly given the choice on what they grow.
"Both Grain Producers SA and the GM Crop Advisory Committee recommended lifting the moratorium on mainland SA while recognising that one group of producers on Kangaroo Island has an established market for non-GM canola in Japan."
A Parliamentary Select Committee was also formed and expected to have its finding released by mid-year.
Mr Whetstone said earlier consultations found there were farmers on KI who did want the option of planting GM varieties in the future.
"Retaining the moratorium on the Island will provide a chance to prove to existing markets segregation can be as successful and reliable in the SA grains industry as it is in other Australian states," he said.
"We need to be able to give our farmers the choice to take advantage of any new GM crops and pastures that may come to market, particularly given the challenges with a variable climate."
The statutory consultation commences today with submissions to inform the new regulations accepted until 5pm, September 30.
In accordance with the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004 formal written submissions will be accepted, and public meetings will be held in Adelaide and Kangaroo Island.
Among the findings by Prof Anderson were the cumulative cost to canola farmers of SA's GM crop moratorium was estimated to be up to $33m from 2004-18, with at least another $5m lost if the moratorium is kept until 2025 - and possibly much more if Omega 3 canola proves to be higher priced and more profitable than existing Roundup Ready canola.
It also found data on canola exports from Australian states to the European Union do not support the view that South Australians enjoy better access in EU non-GM grain markets.
There was also no evidence that SA graingrowers received a premium, compared to neighbouring states, despite it being the only mainland state with a GM crop moratorium.
Prof Anderson also noted the majority of submissions, including those from organisations representing most of SA's farmers, favour the immediate removal of SA's moratorium on GM crop production and transport.
He also found KI could still preserve its "unique identity" and retain access to a high-end Japanese market; that the persistence of the moratorium discouraged both public and private agricultural R&D investments in this state; and the experience of GM canola production and marketing in other mainland states over the past decade reveals that segregation and identity preservation protocols and practice codes can and do ensure the successful coexistence of GM and non-GM crops in Australia.
MORE TO COME