Push to have GM ban lifted by year's end

Push to have GM ban lifted by year's end

Cropping
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A statutory consultation process is under way on the state's GM ban, with the aim of lifting the moratorium by the end of the year.

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WAIT AND SEE: Kangaroo Flat cropper Josh Krieg was supportive of the GM ban being lifted, but he would not consider growing GM canola until he had more information.

WAIT AND SEE: Kangaroo Flat cropper Josh Krieg was supportive of the GM ban being lifted, but he would not consider growing GM canola until he had more information.

WHILE genetically-modified technology will not be the "silver bullet" for all cropping systems, Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone says lifting the ban on growing GM food crops is about putting the power of choice back in farmer hands.

On Monday, Mr Whetstone announced that the state government planned to lift the GM ban on mainland SA, while Kangaroo Island would retain its moratorium, due to established non-GM canola contracts with Japan.

The decision follows recommendations made in February by Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson, who conducted a state government-commissioned independent review into the potential economic benefit to the state or graingrowers in remaining GM-free.

Since the announcement, Mr Whetstone said concerns had been raised about the technology, but consultation undertaken in the past 12 months had shown "overwhelming support" for lifting the moratorium.

"Any concerns about the environment, food and human health safety have already been addressed by the federal regulator," he said.

"And while GM technology is not a silver bullet for the state's ag challenges, at least it gives farmers a choice."

Mr Whetstone said lifting the moratorium would not stop farmers from continuing to farm as they wished.

"There are many countries growing GM crops and they are successfully dealing with segregation," he said

"It will just be a matter of respecting your neighbour's management practices, like conventional farmers already do today with their organic neighbours."

But the decision to lift the moratorium before waiting on the release of findings by a parliamentary inquiry into the ban is an "insult" to participants in the process, according to opposition primary industries spokesperson Eddie Hughes.

Mr Hughes said he would wait on the Select Committee's recommendations before making his position on the moratorium.

"It's important the opposition has a position on GM access, as it is important to primary industry," he said.

"When it comes to the GM debate, the science is settled, so this will be a discussion about the evidence surrounding price premiums of SA remaining GM-free."

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Select Committee chair John Darley confirmed he had received a draft report and committee members would reconvene in the next week or so to consider it and make recommendations.

"We hope to report to parliament before the end of September," he said.

Mr Darley said the government was not bound by the recommendations, but it would be "unwise" to not consider them in the consultation process.

Greens MLC Mark Parnell said it was the parliament that decided to extend the moratorium until 2025, and should be the parliament that decided whether it should be changed.

"For the government to unilaterally step in and use its regulation-making powers treats the parliament with contempt," he said.

"It also treats the parliamentary inquiry with contempt as well.

"The parliament can still disallow regulation changes and if there's a bill required then parliament also gets to vote on that.

"I don't think this is a foregone conclusion and we will be pushing for the moratorium to stay in place."

The SA Greens have started a petition to keep the moratorium in place.

GOOD NEWS: GPSA chairman and Parilla cropper Wade Dabinett was happy about the plan to lift the GM moratorium.

GOOD NEWS: GPSA chairman and Parilla cropper Wade Dabinett was happy about the plan to lift the GM moratorium.

But GPSA chairman Wade Dabinett said SA farmers needed to consider new technologies, such as GM crops, to remain competitive.

"Anti-GM campaigners want us to keep living in the past, but we need to look forward at what challenges SA farmers are facing - such as climate variability - and how are we going to address those big issues," he said.

"The GM ban is holding us back from a massive piece of breeding technology.

"Our counterparts in the west, that have access to GM canola, confidently dry-sow because of the weed control they have through the winter months.

"It is really important for our low rainfall areas, with climate variability like we have seen this year, that farmers have access to all the tools available."

Mr Dabinett highlighted that GM canola would be the most regulated food crop in SA.

"To say GM canola will be splashed across the countryside and contaminating crops everywhere is just not going to happen - that is just fear-mongering," he said.

"The sky hasn't fallen through in the GM crop-growing states of WA, Vic and NSW.

"WA supplies the same export markets that SA does, and it hasn't had a negative impact there on the non-GM growers of that state."

RELATED READING:GPSA backs freedom of choice

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Kangaroo Flat cropper Josh Krieg said public perception about GM technology was one of his biggest concerns.

"We have heard lifting the moratorium is overwhelmingly supported by the farming community, but we should be more worried about what the public think about it," he said.

"There is a very social and emotional aspect to the debate, so going forward there needs to be more information made available about the advantages of having access to GM technology."

Mr Krieg crops 3000 hectares with wife Caitlin and his parents Robin and Robyn Krieg. They generally grow 200-300ha of canola.

Mr Krieg said they probably would not grow GM canola immediately if the ban was lifted.

"We would like to do more research about what varieties will be made available to us and what the benefits of each variety are," he said.

"It will also be interesting to see how it will work logistically, with buffer zones, segregations and the like - we haven't had that explained yet. Or what happens if there is a contamination."

But he was happy about the prospect of having access to GM technology.

"Other states have been allowed to grow it, so why shouldn't SA growers have the same option?" he said.

A statutory six-week consultation process is under way and "time was of the essence", Mr Whetstone said.

"We hope to present the new regulations to the parliament by early December," he said.

"If common sense prevails, this will be done and dusted before Christmas - that's is our goal so graingrowers can order seed for next season."

GM canola will initially be the most widely-grown crop, with GM Roundup Ready varieties set to provide SA farmers with another herbicide-tolerant option along with conventionally-bred Clearfield and triazine-tolerant cultivars.

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