THE moratorium on genetically-modified food crops in SA appears to be on shaky ground, with the state government announcing its intention to scrap the ban by the end of the year. But while opponents of the moratorium might be on the verge of winning the regulatory battle, the fight to maintain social licence is ongoing.
Since the announcement, social media and talkback radio has been flooded with reactions both in favour and against the government's decision. It's clear there is still plenty of scepticism about GM technology, with one talkback caller believing farmers who wanted to grow GM crops should "just move to another state".
Related reading:Push to have GM ban lifted by year's end
As the mounting pressure on glyphosate shows, having permission to use a product doesn't guarantee the support of the public.
Many of those against GM crops appear concerned about potential adverse health impacts of eating GM food, but it's important to remember the responsibility for ensuring GM technology poses no risk to human health lies with the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, not the state government.
Instead, SA's ban on GM crops has always been about economics, with the moratorium repeatedly extended to protect the price premiums growers were receiving for operating in a GM-free state. This argument faltered when research from Mecardo and then Kym Anderson found the ban was actually leaving SA croppers worse off overall.
Related reading:SA GM ban costs farmers $33m, report finds
Lifting the ban will mean the vast majority of our farmers can operate on a level playing field with their interstate counterparts.
On the flipside, it may mean some producers and companies have to change their marketing plans, but the role of government is to look beyond individual cases and do what it deems has the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.
There has been some suggestions that the government should have waited until the parliamentary inquiry findings had been handed down before making a decision on the moratorium's future. But with Emeritus Professor Anderson's independent report released in February, and the parliamentary inquiry meant to have been released 'mid-year', how much longer should farmers have been forced to wait?
The timing of the announcement means a thorough consultation process can be conducted, while still giving farmers time to plan for next year.
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