THE state government have responded to a disallowance motion, to regulations that would lift the GM crop moratorium on mainland South Australia on December 1, by saying they will adopt a select committee's recommendations into the matter if the disallowance motion is unsuccessful.
The disallowance motion was put forward by Greens MLC Mr Parnell, who was also one of four members of the Select Committee on the Moratorium on the Cultivation of Genetically Modified crops in South Australia, which filed their final report in Parliament last week.
While the committee was split on whether or not SA's moratorium be lifted on the mainland, they agreed the following recommendations be adopted:
- That the Minister work with primary producers and the wider food and wine industry to outline key steps and milestones to enhance marketing opportunities for primary producers and the value adding chain.
- That the State Government work with all relevant government departments to support and provide marketing assistance to South Australian primary producers, the wider food and wine industry, relevant representative bodies, associations and industry groups which want to remain GM free.
- That the Minister ensures that a suitable and widely recognised non-GM label is accepted and used by South Australia's primary producers and wider food and wine industry which want to remain GM free and have that status recognised locally, nationally and internationally.
Mr Parnell subsequently filed a disallowance motion against the state government's proposed changes, which will go to a vote on November 27 - four days prior to when the GM ban is to be lifted.
In a statement from Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone, it was made clear the state government would support all recommendations by the select committee, but only if the moratorium is lifted on mainland SA.
"The Parliamentary Select Committee into GM crops in SA made three recommendations relating to supporting greater marketing opportunities and assistance of non-GM produce, which our government will support if the moratorium is lifted on mainland SA," Mr Whetstone said.
"If the Parliament disallows the regulations, there is no benefit in the state government supporting the select committee's recommendations, and we will not.
"A majority of evidence taken during the select committee supports the government's decision to lift the moratorium on mainland SA.
"The Parliament cannot ignore the evidence provided to the committee and continue to leave a moratorium in place based on ideology which is costing farmers in SA real money and denying them a basic right - choice.
"SA farmers should have the same choices to use new and improved crop varieties to tackle drought and climate change as farmers enjoy in our neighbouring states.
In Parliament on Thursday last week, Mr Parnell said the Greens would move to disallow the regulations and they were doing so for a number of reasons.
"The first reason is that, less than two years ago, this Parliament decided to extend the moratorium that banned GM crops across the entire state until September 2025," Mr Parnell said.
"The bill passed by both houses of parliament was done with the understanding that any future decision to lift the moratorium could only be done with the support of both houses of parliament and by legislation."
Mr Parnell accused the state government of going down the "sneaky path" of changing the scope of the regulations, while leaving the moratorium expiry date in place, and has called for them to introduce an amendment bill so the changes can be debated in parliament.
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Mr Parnell cited many reasons not to lift SA's GM moratorium, including the need to protect SA's clean, green reputation for marketing and economic benefits, prices disparities between GM and non-GM crops in other states, as well as risk of contamination of non-GM crops by their GM counterparts.
"I implore both the Labor Party and SA-Best to continue to stand firm on retaining SA's GM-free status and support the motion for disallowance of these regulations so that we can retain the moratorium across SA," Mr Parnell said.
Mr Parnell has indicated that he will bring the motion to vote on November 27, four days prior to the proposed commencement of the government's new regulations on December 1.
"Farmers need certainty about whether or not they can start growing GM crops next season and the decision of this chamber prior to the commencement of those regulations will provide that certainty for farmers," he said.
SELECT COMMITTEE SPLIT
Greens MLC Mark Parnell's disallowance motion follows the handing down of the report from the select committee on the moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified crops in South Australia.
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As predicted, the committee was split with Advance SA MLC John Darley and Liberal MLC John Dawkins of the view that the moratorium be lifted on mainland South Australia and retained for Kangaroo Island.
"There was evidence that reinforced my view that the farming sector in SA, which is highly regarded around the world and has been for decades, deserves the opportunity to have the choice of growing genetically modified crops within their rotation schedule," Mr Dawkins said in parliament.
"It is something that happens everywhere else in Australia and certainly the world has not ended."
Mr Dawkins said the committee heard great evidence of the ability of the grain handling sector to segregate grains and segregate different varieties of grain.
Mr Darley said various representatives from the agriculture sector had contended that if the state was to progress and resume its former high rank standing in agricultural science, GM technology must be available.
Mr Parnell retained his position that the current moratorium remain until it expires on September 1, 2025 as approved by the last parliament and a review of the operation of the moratorium be undertaken twelve months prior to its expiry.
Labor MLC Emily Bourke proposed that the Minister for Primary Industries "engage in open and transparent consultation with primary producers and the wider food and wine industry in order to develop a GM Moratorium Action Plan as we move towards the 2025 target".
CropLife Australia commended the select committee for their work in reviewing the moratorium, saying the plant science industry was pleased the removal of the moratorium received support from committee members, as opposed to delaying its removal for several more years or keeping it altogether.
"Removing the GM moratorium is not about forcing farmers to grow GM crops," CropLife Australia chief executive officer Matthew Cossey said.
"This is about all farmers simply having a choice to grow whichever approved crops - including GM crops - best suit their land and business model so that no farmer loses out."
"The 2017 decision to extend the GM moratorium until 2025 was a baseless and crass political maneuver.
"Any delay to removing South Australia's GM moratorium serves no purpose and would only deny the state's farming sector access to important innovations.
"The facts are clear - South Australian growers are missing out on the environmental, agronomic and financial benefits of growing approved GM crops."