Plan to can GM ban hits roadblock

Plan to can GM ban hits roadblock

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THE state government's plan to give mainland SA farmers the choice to grow genetically-modified crops next year appears to be in tatters.

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THE state government's plan to give mainland SA farmers the choice to grow genetically-modified crops next year appears to be in tatters, with a disallowance motion from Greens MLC Mark Parnell gaining enough support to block changes to the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations.

The disallowance motion passed the Upper House yesterday evening, with the support of Labor and SA-Best.

While The Greens have long been in favour of keeping the moratorium, Labor and SA-Best said their support for the disallowance motion was based on the government choosing to scrap the ban on mainland SA through a ministerial regulation, rather than by introducing legislation to parliament and allowing all members the chance to vote on the issue.

"The government is attempting to bring about wholesale change by regulation, rather than a bill to the parliament," Opposition primary industries spokesperson Eddie Hughes said.

"It's about the issue of scrutiny, not the science around GM.

"It is important that both the Lower House and Upper House have an opportunity to scrutinise a bill, and have that open debate."

SA-Best MLC Connie Bonaros said ignoring parliamentary due process would set "a very bad precedent".

"Our decision is not based on whether we support or don't support lifting the moratorium - or whether we support GM crops or whether we don't - our decision is based on ensuring the due processes of parliament are adhered to and maintained," she said.

The decision has been slammed by the government, with Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone accusing Labor and SA-Best of being a "handbrake" on the SA economy, while Grain Producers SA chief executive officer Caroline Rhodes was also highly critical of the Opposition.

"It is now clear that politics has triumphed over policy within the Labor Party, with no clear way forward for the state's agricultural sector," Ms Rhodes said.

"Hiding behind a strawman argument about regulatory process doesn't change the fact that the state government is precisely following the intent of the act, as introduced by the former Rann government in 2004."

Related reading:GM hurdles loom large

SA Dairyfarmers' Association president John Hunt said the Labor Party was holding back technology from industry.

"The moratorium is asking us to use chamber pots when the rest of the world has flushing toilets," he said.

"It is clear to the most casual observer what is happening, and it is as disgraceful as it is excruciating.

"The fears of the past which led to the moratorium a decade ago have not become manifest. The science is saying it's safe."

The government will likely need to consider introducing legislation into parliament instead.

Related reading: GM call should rest with farmers

While Labor does not support lifting the GM ban at the moment, Mr Hughes said the party would thoroughly evaluate any legislation put forward by the government in the future.

"Our position at the moment is not to support the lifting of the moratorium, but when evidence accumulates in a particular direction, we've got to keep an open mind and we've got to look at that," he said.

"At the end of the day, you want to do the right thing by the environment, by the consumer and by the farmer, so a deliberative and reflective process is a worthwhile approach, and going through the parliament in a fuller way is one part of doing that."

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