GM decision supported, but push for second review findings

GM moratorium lift welcomed, but push to wait on second review

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Grain Producers SA has welcome the government decision to lift the GM moratorium on mainland SA.

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GPSA chairman Wade Dabinett said SA mainland growers were one step closer to having the freedom of choice to grow the crops that best suited their farming systems following the state government decision today to restrict the state's GM moratorium solely to Kangaroo Island.

GPSA chairman Wade Dabinett said SA mainland growers were one step closer to having the freedom of choice to grow the crops that best suited their farming systems following the state government decision today to restrict the state's GM moratorium solely to Kangaroo Island.

THE state government's decision to lift the genetically-modified food crops moratorium has been welcomed by Grain Producers SA, which has been strongly pushing for grower freedom of choice.

"We strongly believe that growers deserve the freedom to grow the cereal, legume and oilseed varieties that best fit their farming system, and thank the Minister (Tim Whestone) for delivering this vision," GPSA chairman Wade Dabinett said.

A six-week consultation process will now begin on SA's Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004.

Mr Dabinett said GPSA "looked forward to an orderly transition during the legislative process".

"SA growers have been prevented from having access to the same leading technology their mainland interstate counterparts for more than 15 years," he said.

"Since the organisation's inception, GPSA has consistently argued the moratorium offers little in the way of trade and marketing benefits to the majority of agricultural producers in SA and removes the option of using GM tools which have been independently proven to be safe and effective."

The moratorium will be retained on Kangaroo Island, which "reflects GPSA's own consultation as well as Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson's review held earlier this year to better understand different perspectives and the moratorium's current and future economic impact", Mr Dabinett said.

"The government's decision will go a long way to attracting further investment in research and development in the state, given there will now be a true path to market for GM varieties in SA," he said.

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CropLife Australia chief executive officer Matthew Cossey has welcomed the state government's GM moratorium lift announcement.

"We now call on all parties to support this science-based decision so farmers in SA can access the clear environmental, agronomic and financial benefits of growing approved GM crops," he said.

"With the demands on farming ever-increasing, policies based on facts, science and independent analysis have never been more crucial.

"Through this sensible decision, the Marshall Government and Minister Whetstone have displayed great leadership, foresight and an unwavering commitment to SA farmers and the state's agriculture sector more broadly.

Mr Cossey said not only were GM crops beneficial for farmers, they attracted great environmental benefits too.

"Adoption of GM crops has already saved 183 million hectares of land from cultivation and is responsible for savings in CO2 emissions of 27 billion kilogram - the equivalent of removing 90 per cent of passenger cars registered in Australia from the road for one year," he said.

"South Australians can be assured that lifting the GM moratorium will not impact current agricultural commodity price premiums, nor will it impact any other farmers who choose to continue with conventional or organic crops.

"Farmers will now have access to choose whichever approved crop suits their land and business model - no farmer loses out."

Mr Cossey stressed that the proposed removal of the moratorium did not alter the strict licencing and accreditation rules surrounding the use of GM crops.

"This stringent system is in place right across the supply chain, from seed storage and seed sellers, to agronomists and farmers. It is on top of Australia's world-class safety regulatory system for all GM crops," he said.

"Across Australia and the world, farmers have been growing GM and non-GM crops side-by-side successfully and productively for many years without creating marketing issues with segregation managed by the bulk grain handlers.

"SA has a long and successful history in research and development of plant breeding innovations. It's time their farmers actually gain access to this agricultural technology to keep in step with farmers from other mainland Australian states and major agricultural nations around the world."

There is still a Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry under way into growing GM crops in SA, that was expected to deliver its findings by mid-year.

It's a report that Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps believes should be able to "run its course" before any proposed changes are made to the moratorium.

"The SA government's plan to end the GM ban by amending regulations would betray the parliament and the people of the state," he said.

"The winners from lifting the GM-free ban would be foreign seed and agrochemical companies and the losers SA's farmers and shoppers."

Mr Phelps said keeping KI GM-free was "clear proof of tangible GM-free benefits".

"Exempting an island from GM canola so it can reap the benefits of GM-free cropping also confirms that GM poses contamination threats to neighbours and supply chains," he said.

"That's why Tas government announced last week that their island will remain GM-free till 2029."

Mr Phelps said farmers who chose to grow Roundup-tolerant GM canola would pay more for seed, segregation and shipping their product, and the harvested seed would be discounted.

"The discount for GM canola vs GM-free varieties in WA last week was $105/tonne, and GM-free premiums of up to $50/t are also paid in Vic and NSW," he said.

"Canola is just 2pc of all revenue from the SA's broadacre crops so the profits claimed for growing GM are grossly inflated.

"The state government should stay GM-free and get behind farmers and food businesses to earn substantial GM-free premiums in Australian and overseas markets."

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