Councils' GM countdown begins

Councils' GM countdown begins

Grains
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A six-month countdown has begun for SA councils if they plan to remain GM-free.

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Callington croppers Nathan and Brett Wegener said while RoundUp Ready canola wasnt suited to their cropping program, they were pleased other GM technologies could be researched further within SA.

Callington croppers Nathan and Brett Wegener said while RoundUp Ready canola wasnt suited to their cropping program, they were pleased other GM technologies could be researched further within SA.

A six-month countdown has begun for local councils if they plan to consult and apply to keep the genetically-modified crops moratorium in their regions.

On Wednesday last week, the state government had its Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Bill 2019 finally pass Parliament with some amendments.

The amendments included the push for mainland communities to have a say on the lifting of the moratorium through their local council and not allowing GM research to be undertaken in non-GM crop cultivation areas, unless a minister had approved an exemption.

Councils will have the next six months (starting from May 15) to prove there is an economic advantage to remaining GM-free.

The government has already acknowledged Kangaroo Island as one such region, as outlined in the independent review by Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson, and will remain GM-free.

Just prior to the bill passing, Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone thanked opposition primary industries spokesperson Eddie Hughes for "coming to the negotiating table to get this very important piece of legislation through".

Mr Hughes said the bill now allowed "choice and voice".

"There is that opportunity for a council to marshal the arguments from their particular area and put that argument to the minister and to the advisory committee. I am sure the minister and the advisory committee will give that the due weight that is needed," he said.

The Local Government Association...remains totally in the dark on the details and who will bear the costs of community consultations. - FRANK PANGALLO

But SA-Best MLC Frank Pangallo was concerned consultation by councils would create "divisions in communities, particularly in the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and KI".

"The Local Government Association has told me there was no consultation with its members by either Labor or the government. It remains totally in the dark on the details and who will bear the costs of community consultations," he said.

Mr Whetstone would not indicate whether the government would help fund consultation, but said each council would be contacted directly with more details.

The costs involved will be a question posed to the minister by LGA president Sam Telfer in a meeting tomorrow (Friday).

Mr Telfer said the cost of consultation was still uncertain as councils were yet to know what level of consultation they would enter into.

"Some councils have a more diverse range of primary production businesses, that may need a more wide-ranging consultation process," he said.

"Over the next few months, the LGA, with input from PIRSA and key stakeholders, such as GPSA, will work with councils to frame up a base level of consistency with their consultation processes.

"We have yet to be given direction as to what evidence is needed to prove that economic advantage, but LGA will work closely with PIRSA and the minister's GM advisory group to get more clarification on that."

Mr Telfer reiterated that any application to the minister would only be considered on a basis of market advantage, not ideological or theoretical basis.

He also planned to discuss time frames with Mr Whetstone, with concerns some of the six months would be taken up by the minister to consider applications.

"We will need some direction on those timeframes so that councils, if they wish to go through a consultation process, can do so in a timely manner," he said.

MAKING TRACKS: Nathan Wegener was out spraying at Callington on Tuesday before 2mm of rain fell that night. A lot more rain was expected on Wednesday.

MAKING TRACKS: Nathan Wegener was out spraying at Callington on Tuesday before 2mm of rain fell that night. A lot more rain was expected on Wednesday.

GROWERS AWAIT NEW CROP TECHNOLOGIES

CALLINGTON cropper Nathan Wegener welcomed the lifting of the moratorium, excited about the future possibilities in crop science.

"It is unfortunate that too much of the GM debate has revolved around glyphosate and RoundUp Ready canola, when there are so many other opportunities in GM technology," he said.

"I am keen to see more research on frost and drought tolerance, disease and pest resistance."

Nathan crops 2000 hectares with brother Brett across three different council areas - Mount Barker, Alexandrina and Murray Bridge.

"It will be interesting to see how the councils handle the consultation process - they already had enough on their plates with the bushfires and COVID-19, and now there's this," Nathan said.

"We don't plan to grow GM canola on-farm at this stage, because we don't want to rely on glyphosate any more than we already do. But lifting the moratorium allows researchers to work on varieties that one day could be better suited to our farm."

The Wegeners have about a week of seeding to go, after up to 70 millimetres of rain since Anzac Day - "the best start in many years".

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